A heat wave hit the eastern United States last week, sending temperatures skyrocketing from the Ohio Valley to the Eastern Seaboard to the Great Lakes. Called a “heat dome,” a formation of hot, stagnant air sat over much of the country. Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston saw heat indices as high as 110 degrees. As people strained to keep cool, spot market prices of electricity hit 10 times their usual, and the electrical grid strained to keep up. As this report from Boston public radio station WBUR – featuring AEE member company EnerNOC – made clear, it was a good time for air conditioning sales, ice cream promotions, and demand response.
New York State ripped its way to record electric usage last week. On Thursday, the Energy Information Administration issued an advisory, warning that New York would be operating at 99% of its capacity, pushing the state right to the edge of grid failure. On Friday, the state set a new record, peaking at 33,955 megawatts of demand.
With the grid vulnerable to strain like this, demand response has gained ground as essential for reliability. Demand response programs reward participating customers who agree to use less power when called upon during periods of peak demand. The New York State grid operator’s demand response program produced energy savings equivalent to the output of two large power plants. Tom Rumsey, vice president of external affairs for the New York Independent System Operator, called the program “crucial” for keeping the lights on.
“Every generating asset we had was working all week and we were just a couple hundred megawatts away” from brownouts, said Rumsey.
FERC estimates that current demand response programs can cut peak electricity demand by as much as 9.2%, saving up to 72,000 megawatts of capacity, or as much electricity as can be produced by 18 large power plants.
Demand response, Tim Healey, CEO of EnerNOC, told the Wall Street Journal, has utilities starting to think like airlines. If a flight is overbooked, he said, “the airline asks who has flexibility to fly later in the day. They don’t roll out an extra billion-dollar plane.”
In other news this week, EV sales are way up, thanks in part to that other summertime energy constant: surging gas prices. Total EV sales in Q1 and Q2 2013 have doubled over the same period in 2012, with the Nissan Leaf seeing sales quadruple. EVs still make up a small portion of the overall vehicle market, however, at 4% market share.
To get the most important advanced energy headlines delivered to your inbox every week, sign up for the newsletter below!