BY STEVE HITE
Nothing feels more welcome on a hot summer afternoon than the air conditioner kicking on. But, while your house is cooling down, electricity generation plants are warmed up and running full tilt to reliably serve everyone’s needs.
Your local electric cooperative is part of a complex system that must be prepared to meet the highest power demands of the year. This is similar to the way a mall parking lot may seem larger than needed. When you pass by on most days, the majority of the spots are empty. Yet on the day after Thanksgiving, customarily the busiest shopping day of the year, the parking lot may be crammed with cars — and more ready to pounce when a spot opens. Your electric co-op has to build or buy enough capacity to fulfill everyone’s needs on that one hottest day (or coldest night) of the year.
Simple supply and demand
Like with other products, the rules of supply and demand apply to electricity. When businesses are operating and everyone is running their A/Cs on a hot summer afternoon, electricity prices on the markets can soar because everyone needs it. You may not see these price differences on your home’s electric bill because your electric co-op may average all of these costs into one amount per kilowatt-hour (kWh) regardless of the time of day you use the power. Eventually, high demand days can lead to higher average costs for everyone overall.
Your plans can save!
You can easily reduce your energy use during times of peak demand, providing savings for you and your local electric co-op. Even simple steps like raising your thermostat a few degrees and closing the shades against the hot summer sun can help reduce the energy your co-op needs to provide.
Additional steps that can save even more and improve problem areas of your home include air sealing and adding insulation. Properly sized and tuned high-efficiency HVAC equipment can also reduce demand during peak times.
Co-op offers savings programs
Many co-ops offer free advice and power-saving programs for devices like air conditioners and water heater load management. These shift energy use to times when electricity is in less demand. By doing this, the distribution co-op and its generation and transmission cooperative can avoid building new facilities which can lead to higher costs for the local electric cooperative and its members. Everyone can have a role in reducing long-term energy costs for the local co-op — which, in turn, can help minimize the costs you will have to pay in the future as well.
STEVE HITE is energy advisor at Hendricks Power Cooperative