Beating the summer heat: peak demand management in Vermont
by Jim Merriam, Director of Efficiency Vermont
Summer in Vermont is officially in full swing. Temperatures have already climbed above 90°F a few times this month, and with a daily dose of heat and humidity, I’m (almost) forgetting the chill of the long winter.
In order to cope with the heat, Vermonters have started cooling their homes, and the rattle of hard-working air conditioners is a familiar sound. Unfortunately keeping indoor temperatures low can come at a high price. While it’s true that with long daylight hours we’re using less electricity to light our homes, summer actually marks the time of year with the highest levels of electricity use. This nation-wide trend is known as summer peak – when we’re all placing a little extra strain on the electric grid, increasing demand and causing the cost that utilities pay for power to spike significantly.
ISO New England Inc., the overseer of electric transmission and the wholesale electricity market in New England, recently released their outlook for the 2014 summer peak. The good news is that energy efficiency efforts have helped reduce the forecasted peak demand by more than 1,500 megawatts (MW). The bad news is we will still have to use old and inefficient power sources to meet the high demand when summer peak hits. Last year the New England region reached peak electricity usage on July 19th – with a grand total of 27,379 megawatts (MW) used. This year the peak is forecasted to reach 26,660 MW - or as high as 28,965 MW in the event of an extended heat wave with high temps around 95°F.
Keeping cool and in control: reducing strain on our electric grid
At Efficiency Vermont we work year round to make energy improvements in homes and businesses across the state, and reduce our region’s summer peak electrical usage. This summer we’re trying something new to help Vermonters reduce strain on our electric grid.
We’ve teamed up with Green Mountain Power and leading edge company OPower to launch a pilot program that will help 35,000 residential utility customers to reduce their electricity use during the peak summer season. The program provides customers with the information and tools they need to use less during crucial, high-demand periods. Participants are notified of upcoming peak event days when temperatures, and energy usage, are projected to be particularly high. They also receive no-cost tips for reducing the strain on the power grid during the peak events. These tips consist mainly of small changes that can have a large impact, such as waiting until lower-use times of day to do laundry or run the dishwasher, and strategies to keep a home cool without having to rely as much on air conditioning.
The key to reducing the impacts of summer peaks is to stay informed and thoughtful about your energy use. That’s why I find one aspect of this summer’s pilot program particularly exciting: Following each peak event, participating GMP customers will get personalized feedback on how much power they were able to save, how it compares with their neighbors, and tips on how they can do even better the next time a peak event is called.
Looking for ways to reduce your electric usage on peak days this summer – and year round? Leave a comment below, or give us a call. In the meantime, get out and enjoy the beautiful Vermont summer while it lasts!