06 18, 2024

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Summer is not even in full swing yet, and much of the United States is already experiencing scorching temperatures at or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The Northeast and Midwest, regions not typically known for such extreme early summer heat, are bracing for record-setting temperatures and a prolonged heat wave. A formidable heat dome is settling over a significant portion of the nation, predicted to drive temperatures to levels not seen in 30 years.

This intense heat wave is expected to impact 82% of the U.S. population, equating to around 270 million people. The National Weather Service has issued Excessive Heat Watches for numerous states as they prepare for the sweltering conditions.

The prolonged duration of this heat wave is particularly concerning. According to the National Weather Service, “the duration of this heat wave is notable and potentially the longest experienced in decades for some locations.” This prediction means extended periods of oppressive heat, with daytime highs consistently soaring into the 90s and above, and nighttime temperatures offering little relief.

This heat wave serves as a stark reminder of the potential impacts of climate change, with extreme weather events becoming more frequent and intense. As the nation grapples with this early summer heat, the importance of preparedness and resilience in the face of such weather phenomena becomes ever more apparent.

Ensuring electric grid reliability during the heat wave

This time of year increasingly provokes serious concerns about grid reliability. Extreme weather events like heat waves can strain the electric grid, as record-setting temperatures drive millions of Americans to crank up air conditioning units to stay cool. This surge in energy demand raises concerns about potential blackouts and puts additional stress on utilities already dealing with peak usage.

Grid operators have the never-ending task of ensuring electricity supply matches consumer demand. When demand for electricity soars, like during the current heat wave, the grid needs to ensure enough supply to match that increase in demand. Historically, grid operators and utilities have fired up peaking power plants to provide this supply during times of need. But resources like peaking power plants are typically fossil fuel powered, and they are expensive to build and maintain.

Demand response – a cost-effective grid reliability solution

Grid operators are increasingly realizing that the most straightforward solution for addressing peak demand is reducing it. Instead of investing in capital-intensive infrastructure like peaking power plants, grid operators are incentivizing real-time load reduction as a cleaner, more cost-effective solution. Flexibility programs, like demand response, have become critical reliability resources essential to the grid’s stability.

Demand response programs enable companies to monetize their energy flexibility. They receive compensation for making strategic, targeted reductions to their electricity consumption when the grid needs support. These programs help the grid reduce the demand for electricity to match the available supply rather than the traditional method of increasing supply to meet demand.

Demand response has played an increasingly important role in helping the grid remain stable during extreme weather events in recent years. Several notable examples highlight the effectiveness of demand response in critical situations:

  • July 2023: During a massive heat wave in Texas and Arizona, demand response was a crucial part of the resource mix that helped avoid grid emergencies. As temperatures soared and air conditioning use spiked, demand response programs incentivized companies to reduce their electricity usage during peak hours, easing the strain on the grid and preventing blackouts.
  • December 2022: Winter Storm Elliott brought a deep freeze that caused several power plants to go offline. In this emergency, demand response provided critical support, enabling the grid to maintain balance by reducing consumption and reallocating power where it was most needed. This swift adjustment helped restore stability and prevented widespread power outages.
  • September 2022: An extreme heat wave in California tested the grid’s resilience as energy demand surged. Demand response played a vital role in balancing the grid by encouraging participants to lower their electricity usage during peak periods. This collective effort helped avert potential blackouts and maintained grid reliability during the heat wave.

These are just a few of the many examples showcasing the importance of demand response in modern energy management. By leveraging advanced technologies and consumer participation, demand response not only enhances grid stability but also promotes more efficient and sustainable energy use.

Demand response is set to play a role in the June 2024 heat wave

Given the record-breaking temperatures and the extended duration of the heat dome settling over the Northeast and Midwest, the strain on grid operators across the United States is expected to be immense. Demand response will likely play a critical role in providing relief to the grid. At the time of this writing, grid operators in the regions forecasted to experience elevated and prolonged temperatures are already preparing for demand response dispatches.

  • PJM Interconnection: Covering parts of the Midwest and East, PJM is one of the largest grid operators in the country, and the heat dome is expected to impact the entirety of this extensive area. They have already issued a Hot Weather Alert through June 21 which could also impact neighboring jurisdictions.
  • NYISO (New York Independent System Operator): As the grid operator in New York, NYISO and utilities in its jurisdiction are gearing up to manage the increased load from the extreme heat.
  • ISO-NE (Independent System Operator-New England): Serving the New England region, ISO-NE and utilities in its jurisdiction are also bracing for the heat wave. 
  • MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator): MISO covers a large portion of the central United States, a region where the heat dome is expected to have an impact.
  • IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator): In Ontario, the IESO is preparing to manage the heat wave’s effects on the grid.

Enel North America customers in these regions are ready to serve the grid, and we thank our customers in advance for their participation in helping the grid during this time of need. Enel has already been pulled in to support some Northeast utilities with demand response resources and is on elevated alert in several others. 

What can you do to prepare for future extreme weather?

As extreme weather events become more frequent and intense due to climate change, the role of demand response will continue to grow, providing a flexible and reliable tool to support the resilience of the electric grid. As a result, grid operators will need more organizations to enroll in demand response. 

Demand response provides a win-win situation for the grid and participating companies. It helps keep the lights on and air conditioning running in local communities – while offering financial incentives to commercial and industrial companies like yours to reduce their electricity usage when the grid needs support. Demand response also adds value in the form of advance warning of any upcoming grid disruptions, so you can prepare your operations accordingly.

Your company can earn significant revenue in demand response, but it’s essential to find the right partner who understands your needs and capabilities to maximize your energy potential. Various demand response programs are available, each with different requirements for advanced notification, event length, etc. It’s essential to match the best program(s) to your operations to generate revenue, value stack programs to maximize opportunity, and help the grid remain balanced.

Enel is the world’s largest demand response provider, and we have the experience and expertise to help you find the right program(s) for your operations and maximize the value of your participation. Contact our demand response team today to find out how to enroll in demand response in your region.

Learn more about advancing your energy strategy by leveraging our integrated energy solutions.