Using Efficiency, Managing Demand

The least expensive electricity is the power you never use!

The least expensive electric generating plant is the power station you never build!

We are talking about “energy efficiency,” and “demand-side management” which are different aspects of addressing the goal of building only as much electric generation capacity as is really necessary.  Not just electric generation, of course, but all the resources that are required to make a modern electrical grid work: generation plants, transmission lines, distribution equipment like substations and all the people that it takes to bring electricity to where it is needed.

Energy efficiency generally means using power effectively with minimal waste and typically includes:

  • weatherization measures like insulation of buildings
  • more efficient appliances, such as are encouraged by the Energy Star rating program
  • lighting changes that result in substantial savings in both residential and commercial settings

Demand-side management (DSM) frequently involves “shifting load” or moving the time of the use of electricity away from the “peak” when everybody is using it. In Nebraska, the time of “peak load” is around 4pm to 7pm.  That requirement for electricity defines how much generation capacity must be on call, even if some of it is only used for those few hours! So if an energy-intensive job can be done at an “off-peak” time, less generating capacity is needed.

One example of DSM involves the production of ice to chill air in large buildings. Making that ice at night when demand for electricity is low allows the use of existing generation resources, and so reduces the need to build more generation capacity to make that required power during the time of peak electricity usage. Lincoln Electric System is using that very technique in partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and internally to fine-tune the power generation process at its power plants.

And it just makes sense!