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Load Management and Climate Crisis

image credit: NREL
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writer and researcher BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is...

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Carbon emissions have risen dramatically over the past few decades, accelerating climate change and making extreme weather events more intense and frequent. This climate crisis shows it’s critical to deploy plentiful clean power and other technologies this decade to avoid the worst of climate change. President Biden has set targets to cut America’s carbon emissions in half by 2030 and reach 100% clean electricity by 2035.

As temperatures rise, or conversely erratic weather patterns produce harsher winters, this is going to impact on power use, and inevitably, load management of stressed utility systems. For example, in a hotter summer there are going to be more ACs working hard. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory did some modelling on this a few years ago, looking at what would be the predicted power needs out to 2050.

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It came to the following conclusion: “Having obtained climate-sensitive load profiles, we can apply them in model scenarios investigating possible impacts of climate change on the U.S. electric sector. Some work using these adjusted profiles is described in McFarland et al. (2015). An advantage of using time-slice dependent factors is that the method can distinguish how the increase in demand is distributed across the year. For the RCP4.5 scenario, total U.S. annual demand in 2050 increased by roughly 1% over the static-climate baseline, but summer has a 3% increase in demand while winter has a slight decrease due to a decline in heating loads. Expected annual peak loads for each balancing area, summed across the country non-coincidently, rise by nearly 5% with climate change. The method also allows regional differentiation for existing climate, non-uniform climate change, demographics, and technology (traditional electric-heating regions see greater load-reduction in winter than traditional gas- or oil-heating regions).” NREL: Predicting the Response of Electricity Load to Climate Change

This modelling shows a need for more power available, particularly in summer, but if that is not forthcoming then there will inevitably have to be some load management to meet the needs of the majority of consumers. Which will mean hard choices for utilities.

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James Kirby's picture
James Kirby on Sep 28, 2021

If we were to run short due to this or other reasons, would it be beneficial to close selected businesses early to avoid rotating load cuts. Rotating load cuts create traffic jams; rotating load cuts knock computers off-line. Recovering from the computer outages takes time; ambulances and other emergency vehicles get stuck in traffic jams; their diversity is lost when the loads cut are restored. I don't know the answer, but I believe the question is worthwhile.

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