In a response to the onslaught of sweltering summer heat waves, many cities are ramping up programs that conserve peak-time energy consumption to help provide a buffer between the US’s complex electrical grids and outages or astronomical price jumps.
Some grid operators are using demand response to prevent these price jumps. New York state’s grid operator uses such a platform with excellent results – energy savings on last Friday alone were roughly the same as two entire independent power plants. Similar policies exist in California, Oklahoma, and other states across the country. In New York’s case, the Vice President of External Affairs at the New York Independent System Operator said the system was the only thing preventing a collapse of the power grid. “Every generating asset we had was working all week and we were just a couple hundred megawatts away [from shutdown].”
These efforts provide “negawatts” – the energy saved for later by cutting back usage. The FERC reports that demand response energy programs are now able to cut peak electricity demand by 9.2%, totaling more than 72,000 megawatts of conserved energy.
Demand response programs are seeking better management of energy consumption in the same way other businesses like airlines handle peak demand. “[If a flight is oversold], the airline asks who has flexibility to fly later in the day,” commented Tim Healy, the CEO of EnerNOC. “They don’t roll out an extra billion-dollar plane,” he said.
However, the concept is not without its critics, as many electrical companies depend on such fluxes of high demand to make money. In fact, related industry associations have gone so far as to sue the FERC for officially supporting demand response initiatives.
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