Prolonged heat waves create significant impacts on the energy grid. Hotter temperatures lead to increased cooling demands, particularly during the afternoon when temperatures generally reach their peak. Increased heat and humidity can also impact the transmission lines themselves, causing a slight decrease in efficiency that can reduce their capacity during a period of enhanced energy demand. These factors cause significant stress to the grid and may lead to failure if not addressed properly.
Managing load through collaboration
There are ways that consumers and utility companies can work together to conserve and manage load, thus lowering the stress on the grid. For consumers, using smart meters to analyze their energy use is one step. The information that these metrics provide can help individual consumers make smarter choices in terms of when and how to use energy. Because of the increased demand, some utilities may charge more for energy use during the day, as opposed to at night. Using this knowledge, consumers can choose to run certain appliances, such as a washer or drier, at night instead of the afternoon. This helps the utility company by decreasing peak energy demand and benefits consumers through cost savings.
Using smarter thermostats is another way for consumers to help utility companies conserve load. These products can be programmed to reduce cooling during the day when the residence may not be occupied, and instead focus on cooling during times when somebody is home. For consumers with electric vehicles, another way to aid utility companies is to plug in their vehicles during the day and earn money by feeding excess energy back into the grid. While electric vehicles are not prevalent, as their use grows, this may become a greater source of energy for utilities to harness.
Utility companies can create voluntary programs for consumers that encourage them to skip a cycle or two of an energy-draining device, such as an air conditioner, on days that feature elevated demand. In return, they can financially reward consumers who agree to take part in the program. Both parties benefit from this, as the consumer saves money while the utility company frees up load.
Sharpening load forecasts
Where DTN can help is by supporting more precise load forecasts. Through more accurate temperature forecasts, utility companies have advanced notice about anticipated periods of increased load. From there, they can reach out to their consumers to identify those willing to skip a cycle during the day, saving the consumer money while cutting down on power generation. Also, with better load forecasts, utilities can reach out to larger businesses, such as warehouses or factories, and ask them to reduce their load by moving peak manufacturing times or cutting back on lighting. Those businesses that agree can receive financial rewards, while the utility lowers the risk of an energy shortage.