Many of our members are familiar with our voluntary peak shaving practices during the extreme heat of summer through their participation in our time-of-day rates, load management, smart thermostat and Beat the Peak programs.
Piedmont Electric Cooperative has for decades worked to reduce system-wide energy use during these peak times. We do this to operate the grid more efficiently and to save money for our members.
However, as energy generation and consumption habits change, there may be times during the winter when we need to reduce the peak caused by extreme colds to help members save money and, in extraordinary circumstances, to protect the health of the electric system.
Winter Storm Elliot
For nearly a week in December 2022, Winter Storm Elliot blanketed the United States with blizzards, high winds, snow and record cold temperatures. According to The Weather Channel, 110 million people across 36 states were under a wind chill alert on Dec. 24, 2022.
With the extreme colds, energy use skyrocketed as heating units had to run longer and more often to keep everyone warm. The unprecedented increase in demand for energy combined with underperformance at some power plants led to the need for a controlled load shed, also known as a rolling blackout.
While Piedmont Electric does not operate power plants, we have conveyed the importance of reliability to our power suppliers who have taken steps to strengthen power plant operations and prevent similar issues to what was experienced during Winter Storm Elliot.
This is the only such event in Piedmont Electric Cooperative’s 85-year history and we expect that with the changes in place, it will remain that way.
Controlled load sheds are implemented as a last resort to prevent widespread and prolonged outages caused by an imbalance between electricity supply and demand. The goal is to maintain the stability of the overall electricity grid and prevent a more extensive and longer outage.
During Winter Storm Elliot, Piedmont Electric had 637 members without power for about 43 minutes whereas other utilities had thousands out for hours. The load shed was able to prevent overloading the system which would have led to a prolonged outage.
While we know that any power outage is inconvenient, controlled load sheds are a measure taken only when absolutely necessary to avoid more widespread and extended outages.
Power is disconnected at a substation or circuit level to achieve the necessary energy reduction and prevent damage to the system. For example, during Winter Storm Elliot we needed to reduce energy use by 5%.
Electricity is typically off 15-45 minutes before a different substation or circuit is taken offline and power to the original one is restored. For example, Substation A is disconnected first and is off for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, Substation B is disconnected, and Substation A is restored. After another 30 minutes we would continue to rotate through Substations C, D and so on as long as the load shed is necessary.
This rotation of outages is meant to keep members warm, minimize the impact of the outage for all and ensure that one group of members does not bear the brunt of the outage.
How You Can Help
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help us save money for members and reduce the need for controlled load sheds. By taking the proactive steps we’ve outlined below, you can help reduce strain on the system when energy demand is the highest.
Take Action When Receiving Conservation Messages
The easiest and most effective thing you can do is delay or reduce your energy use when we send out conservation alerts. To do this, avoid the use of large appliances like washing machines, lower your heat or air conditioning, avoid using excess hot water, etc. until overall demand is lower.
When we all work together to lower our energy use at peak times, it makes the biggest impact on lowering the strain on the power system.
Sign Up for Beat the Peak Alerts
Make sure you never miss alerts about expected high-demand periods by signing up for Beat the Peak. You’ll get convenient text or email alerts about expected periods of peak demand, so you know when to adjust your energy use. Sign up by visiting pemc.coop/beat-the-peak.
Save Energy and Money
Conservation isn’t just good for the system; it can be good for your wallet too. When you sign up for our time-of-day rate, you pay less for energy during low demand times and more for energy during high demand times. By shifting energy use from high demand to low demand times you can save. Members on the rate saved about $20 per month on the program last year. Visit pemc.coop/special-rates to sign up or learn more.
Sign Up for Our Smart Thermostat Savings Program
Another easy way to reduce energy usage during the summer is by joining our smart thermostat savings program. Nest smart thermostat owners can enroll in the program, which allows Piedmont Electric to adjust your thermostat by a few degrees through your in-home Wi-Fi on very hot, high-demand days. If you’re interested in joining, visit pemc.coop/smart-thermostats.
Have a question or need help enrolling in one of our programs? Email email@example.com, use the chat feature on our website or call 800.222.3107 to get in touch with one of our friendly member service representatives.
The Importance of a Balanced Energy Approach
We believe that a balanced approach is the best way to build an energy portfolio. A mix of carbon-free nuclear, natural gas, solar, wind and other resources ensures we continue to supply the affordable, reliable energy our members need.