I was looking at the PJM Web site the other day and came across this Aug. 11 press release issued by PJM, titled “Consumers Set Electricity Use Records in PJM Region, Electricity Use Up 16 Percent Over Last Year.”
First, I should make clear that this demand increase was not the result of “economic recovery.” The press release says:
“The higher electricity loads we’re seeing are definitely because of the weather,” said Michael Kormos, PJM senior vice president – Operations, noting the correlation between higher temperatures and higher use. “Fortunately, it’s in these hotter than average times when we see the true strength of the coordination between PJM and our member companies who make it possible to meet demand and keep the grid stable.”
The rest of the press release then goes on to ignore the most important part of Mr. Kormos’ statement, namely that demand management gets the credit for managing increased demand.
The other thing that should be noted is that increased overall demand is not an argument for PATH. AEP/Allegheny/PJM have based their need for PATH only on conditions at peak demand. Here is what has happened this summer with peak demand, as described in the press release:
So far this year, the peak demand for electricity in the PJM region was 136,680 megawatts (MW) on July 6. Peak demand is the greatest amount of electricity used during a single hour. (One megawatt is enough electricity to serve 800 to 1,000 homes.) This peak amount was 14 percent higher than last year’s peak demand. The all-time record peak demand was 144,644 MW set on August 2, 2006.
This is the real story, but the press release fails to focus on it. While July 2010 overall demand set a new record for July electricity use, breaking the old July 2006 record, peak demand in 2010 was 8000 megawatts below the record 2006 peak demand.
Instead of pointing to this clear progress in managing peak demand, the press release seems to congratulate PJM customers for using ever more electricity. If PJM were really serious about increasing grid reliability, they would not be celebrating rising power use.
Demand management, particularly peak demand management, is cheap and fast. The 8000 megawatt reduction in peak demand from 2006, while overall demand rose, meant that PJM did not need the capacity of four good-sized coal-fired power plants during the very hot weather in July. That achievement should have been the focus of PJM’s press release.
The August 11 PJM press release shows clearly that PJM management is still in the grip of obsolete thinking about our energy future and the management of the electrical power grid. PJM management refuses to acknowledge the facts right before their eyes, in their own transmission system.