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STAT OF THE WEEK: Los Angeles shatters its record for peak electric demand, twice

In the face of sizzling temperatures this week, the City of Angels saw its demand for electricity shoot up toward the heavens.

First, on Tuesday, near-100 degree temperatures meant a big spike in air-conditioning that catapulted LA's total power draw to 6,196 megawatts -- surpassing a previous all-time record of 6,177 megawatts set in September 2010. This level is around double the amount of electric demand experienced during a typical day in LA.

Wednesday took things a step further: in the midst of triple digit temperatures in downtown LA (high of 104°F), the LA Department of Water and Power reported peak power levels of 6,396 megawatts.

 

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To mitigate strain on the grid, utilities in southern California asked their customers to modify their behavior by cutting back on non-critical power demand between 11am and 8pm, recommending steps like turning up the thermostat slightly, postponing loads of laundry and dishes, closing the blinds, and even going to see a movie in an air-conditioned theater.

LA isn't alone in encountering peak demand challenges this month. Recent heat waves and electric power spikes have put utilities in the hot seat from Honolulu to Baltimore.

Situations like these highlight the important potential of customer behavior to shave peak demand, and the related importance of a utility's ability to drive those behaviors in a customer-friendly way. And today, we're seeing exactly that in approaches like Behavioral Demand Response -- wherein utilities use personalized, timely messages before and after peak demand events to motivate customers to manage their thermostats and appliances wisely when the grid is strained.

Utilities from Vermont to California are deploying Behavioral Demand Response (BDR) programs on a territory-wide scale and achieving measurable reductions in peak demand. For a recent example, check out the BDR results from Baltimore Gas & Electric's September 5th Energy Savings Day:

 

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By helping households save energy when it matters most for the grid, utilities like BGE aren't just solving their peak demand challenges. They're also reinvigorating the utility-customer relationship in a pretty awesome way. Header image credit: Flickr user Jeff Wright

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