Thursday, July 24, 2014 · 1:02 p.m.
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EPB's smart grid technology helps the utility distribute electricity more efficiently. (Photo: Staff)

EPB and TVA leaders said that demand-response programs and smart grid technology have helped avoid stress on energy systems during scorching summer months.

“Smart grids help utilities like EPB distribute electricity smarter and more efficiently,” EPB spokeswoman Deborah Dwyer said.

National Journal reported last week that the North American Electric Reliability Corporation projected in May that this summer’s extreme heat could stress the nation’s power grid.

CNN reported last month that the past 12 months have been the warmest since record-keeping began in 1895.

And July brought the hottest temperatures recorded in 118 years of record-keeping, Slate.com reported.

But despite the 100-plus-degree temperatures in recent weeks, utilities have been able to withstand the conditions.

Dwyer said that when EPB’s smart grid is complete, leaders will start rolling out products that will allow customers to reduce power usage during peak demand hours. That will save customers money and relieve some stress on the system.

For example, energy would be in high demand during a 100-degree day, and customers could choose to have EPB control when an appliance, such as a water heater, is on and off so that it won’t run when demand is high.

“By planning ahead, these sorts of programs can make a big difference from a power demand standpoint, but it’s a small change to the customer that won’t affect their comfort or convenience," she said.

TVA currently has demand-response programs. Participating utilities and schools get incentives to help with energy savings, TVA spokesman Mike Bradley said.

For example, during peak hours, TVA leaders may call participants and ask them to adjust their thermostat slightly to save energy.

If they do that, TVA gives them an incentive payment.

It’s these kinds of modifications that help reduce stress on energy systems, leaders said.

TVA could trim off 7-8 megawatts of use during peak demand. A megawatt is equal to about 600 homes, Bradley said.

That doesn’t mean that without the adjustment, power to 600 homes would be lost, though. Bradley said that is sometimes misunderstood.

“It isn’t really to prevent blackouts,” he said. “Sometimes, [that] is a misinterpretation. It isn’t like if we don’t do this we’re going to have a blackout. But it does help the consumer save money, and it helps TVA.”

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