Utilities are preparing for a hot summer

That wonderful summer weather is just a few months away and we can already feel the sun shining on our faces.  As we express our excitement for the hot temperatures, utilities are busy preparing for the heat and the damage it can cause.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting fairly similar weather conditions for the country overall, “Summer will be hotter than normal, with slightly below-normal rainfall.  The hottest periods will occur in early to mid-July, late July, and mid-August.”

Image courtesy of The Farmer's Almanac

Image courtesy of The Farmer’s Almanac

The part that is scaring utilities is the “hotter than normal.”  Extreme temperatures are typically paired with an extreme use of air conditioning, which leads to extra stress on the electric grid.  When the grid is under stress, the possibility of rolling blackouts is at an all-time high and local utilities have only a few options to solve this problem.

They can either rely on outdated power plants to generate more electricity, purchase more energy from other states, or turn to demand response (DR) programs.  As you may have guessed, demand response is the most efficient and economical option.  Once a DR event is triggered, participants are notified of the timeframe they are required to curtail their energy usage.  This system is an effective way to avoid damages that may result from grid instability such as blackouts and hazardous voltage fluctuations.

In preparation, utilities and demand response program leaders are working hard to organize their plans and prepare themselves for a grid emergency.  Updating contact information and running through test events that will train and challenge employees are among their preparation tactics.  But they’re not alone.  DR participants are also practicing their reduction strategies to ensure they are able to reduce as much energy as they can once they receive notice, which will result in a larger payout.

Although no one can predict the future, it’s probably safe to say that this summer will bring long work days for utility workers and big payouts for DR participants.  But until then, enjoy the blue skies and the budding flowers that are sure to accompany the upcoming spring months.

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