On the smart grid, a watt saved is a watt earned

Peak electricity demand is what drives the need for new electricity generating facilities.  Reduce peak demand, reduce the need for new electricity generating facilities.  It’s really that simple.

In most areas, peak demand occurs in mid to late afternoon, when offices and factories are in use, lights, equipment and appliances are on and air conditioners are straining to keep offices and homes cool.  Conversely, the lowest demand occurs at night when offices and factories are closed, lights, equipment and appliances are off and air conditioners have an easier time keeping the temperature down.

Fortunately, energy related technological improvements are making it possible to reduce peak electricity demand in a couple of different and important ways: (i) consumers are able to generate at least part of their own energy requirements on-site, and (ii) consumers can participate in new programs using the smart grid and apps to reduce their demand specifically during peak demand periods.

Solar panels, wind turbines and/or fuel cells can be used to generate electricity on-site.  Solar panels are particularly effective at reducing consumer demand from the grid during peak demand periods because that is precisely the time of day that solar panels generate the greatest amount of electricity.

Energy conservation and energy efficiency reduce demand consistently and permanently, but we’re talking about specifically reducing peak load demand.  New programs are being developed to allow consumers to voluntarily reduce their energy demand during peak demand periods.   The energy utilities would pay consumers for the amount of their reduced consumption during the peak demand period. 

The key to the programs is a smart grid in which consumers and the energy utilities communicate real-time information about demand and prices.  The system would even allow consumers to monitor and control electricity use by individual items like air-conditioners, refrigerators, dishwashers, etc.

For more information, please see the article in technology review.

About the Author

Mark H. Witte is a strong proponent for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and believes individuals should have more control over how the energy for their homes is produced.