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Shift to winter demand peaks seems likely, ACEEE report says

DW Keefer's picture
Journalist Independent Journalist and Analyst

DW Keefer is a Denver-based energy journalist who writes extensively for national and international publications on all forms of electric power generation, utility regulation, business models...

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A large-scale shift toward electric-powered heating is set to raise wintertime power demand, but utilities can cost effectively mitigate spikes and ensure reliability by investing in energy-saving measures in homes, a new report finds.

The report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) shows how utilities’ investments to weatherize homes, improve the efficiency of heating, and optimize the timing of energy use can help tackle cold-weather electricity challenges.

Increased use of electric heating is expected to cause peak electricity demand in the winter for many more utilities. Even in summer-peaking regions, surges in electric demand during increasingly frequent extreme cold weather events can contribute to fuel price spikes or outages, such as occurred in the recent Texas disaster.

While utilities can meet winter peaks and other cold-weather demand constraints by building more power plants, energy efficiency measures have significant untapped potential to reduce winter demand, generally in ways that would be more cost effective, the report finds.

The ACEEE report modeled the impacts of measures to reduce electricity demand in the New England states during a simulated four-day polar vortex in 2040. Researchers examined this region because it not only faces cold temperatures but also is expected to see a significant shift toward electrified heating to meet ambitious climate goals.

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