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Grid Supplies Record Power Demand...Too Soon to Celebrate?

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Nevelyn Black's picture
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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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  • Jun 22, 2022
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Summer officially started yesterday and already Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has had to meet record power demands.   TVA and 153 local power companies provided 31,617 megawatts of energy at a region-wide average temperature of 97 degrees.   TVA credits this success to their diverse generation assets and resilient transmission system, but they also recognize the help of dedicated utility employees and energy conscious customers.

But since the season is just getting started, is it too soon to celebrate? 

Not according to the behavioral science applied to Oracle’s Opower Peak Management programs.  They encourage commendation after customers participate and keep energy usage down.  All-in-all, customers are alerted pre-season to prepare, they receive pre-event notifications, and are given information on what to do to reduce usage.  Finally, post-event, customers are congratulated for their performance. Utilities around the country are working on similar programs to improve response to extreme weather events and incentivize conservation participation. 

Richard Oberg, Manager, Program Delivery Advanced Energy Solutions, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) said, "In an area like Sacramento, which can experience significant heat waves in the summer, load flexibility is critical. SMUD customers can help balance demand during peak times through behavioral response. These easy-to-use tools emphasize education and gamification, which give customers insights into the important roles they have in our collective decarbonization efforts."

TVA, ERCOT and Xcel won this round, but summer has just started.  Many states are warning customers now that rolling blackouts are inevitable. “We’ve been issuing warnings about the grid for a number of years,” said Mark Denzler, chief executive of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “But the swiftness with which this has happened has caught people by surprise. They didn’t think we would be having these issues for a couple of years.”  Contributing factors to grid instability include but are not limited to, extreme weather, coal power plant retirements, droughts that disrupt hydroelectric systems, transmission line installation and repair delays, and the transition to renewables. 

Will these contributing factors create the perfect storm for utilities this summer?  What is your utility doing to mitigate, prevent and prepare for the challenges of extreme heat and record-breaking demand?

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