What is Grid Stress and How Can You Alleviate It?
Understanding Grid Stress
Grid stress refers to any scenario where the demand for energy, driven by utility customers, puts strain on the supply of energy available from the grid. If left unchecked, grid stress can lead to large-scale power outages that leave whole regions without energy—creating significant economic and public health crises.
As a foodservice operator, it’s critical to understand the concept of grid stress and its effect on your business operations. For starters, you can understand grid stress through the dynamics of supply and demand.
Energy consumers create demand for energy through their use of electrical appliances—such as lighting, HVAC, refrigeration, and more. Grid operators, on the other hand, provide a supply of energy through generation resources—such as power plants, solar farms, etc.
Peaker plants—an imperfect solution
Given the potentially dire consequences of grid stress, operators have taken a number of steps to safeguard against large-scale power outages. One tactic can be seen in the use of peaker plants—power plants that run on an ad hoc basis when demand for energy exceeds supply.
Unfortunately, peaker plants wreak havoc on the environment since they’re designed to power on quickly to meet real-time energy demand—making them extremely inefficient.
To illustrate this, consider the fact that it takes 50% more natural gas to run inefficient, gas turbine peaker plants compared to cleaner combined cycle plants. The negative environmental impact of peaker plants is further emphasized by the finding that in New York City alone, peaker plants emit almost 2.7M tons of CO2 annually.
In addition to environmental harm, the use of peaker plants also threatens the health of communities that live in close proximity to these facilities. Peaker plants emit hazardous pollutants like sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NOX), and particulate matter (PM2.5) that increase risks for the following:
- Heart disease
- Birth defects
- Damage to the brain and nervous system.
Therefore, it’s clear that peaker plants’ ability to generate ad hoc power comes at significant costs to the environment and public health. This highlights the need to develop alternative strategies that focus on reducing demand for energy rather than endlessly increasing supply.
How to make the grid more sustainable by reducing demand
In light of the negative outcomes of peaker plants, grid operators have created various programs that aim to alleviate grid stress by reducing demand itself. Two significant examples of this are time-of-use (TOU) metering and demand response (DR).
Energy Consumption Measuring Methods:
- Time-of-Use (TOU) Metering
TOU metering is a method of measuring and charging a utility customer's energy consumption based on when the energy is used. Utility companies charge more during the time of day when electricity use is higher. The period when electricity is most expensive is called “peak pricing” while all other hours are considered “off-peak.”
Some utilities also offer the following:
“Partial peak”: Which falls between peak and off-peak.
“Super off peak”: Which is even cheaper than standard off-peak.
By charging customers on a TOU basis, utility companies create an incentive for customers to consume more energy when the grid is least strained and less energy when the grid is most stressed. This demonstrates how TOU metering helps reduce energy demand itself.
- Demand Response (DR)
Another tactic employed by grid operators is demand response (DR). DR programs are offered by many utilities for energy consumers to enroll in and receive money back for reducing their energy demand, at the utility’s request, during peak periods of demand and under-supply.
A typical DR program functions as follows:
- A participant commits to reducing a specific amount of energy, measured in kW, generated by their utility—this is known as the participant’s nomination.
- Then, when the grid experiences stress, utilities signal participants to reduce energy consumption—reducing demand on the grid.
- Utilities then pay participants for both participating in the program and for reducing energy use when needed—showing how DR programs are a win-win for utilities and their customers.
TOU metering and DR programs are innovative methods of responding to grid stress without the use of peaker plants or other expensive and inefficient assets to quickly generate more energy.
Here’s where the Therma° comes in
Therma° creates tools that help balance the energy demand on the grid and, most importantly, delivers operators a guaranteed 10% reduction in electricity bills through smart energy efficiency and optimization technology.
Save money and the environment—book a demo with Therma°.