Sustaining the power grid

Sam Eaton Jul 2, 2007


Scott Jagow: It’s starting to get hot here in the states. Hopefully we won’t have another sweltering summer, but I wouldn’t bet against a nasty heat wave. And that always means trouble for the power grid. Sam Eaton reports from our Sustainability Desk.

Sam Eaton: The national authority on power grid reliability says there won’t be any rolling brownouts this summer, as long as normal weather patterns prevail.

That’s a big “if,” especially given last summer’s nationwide heat wave. Utilities have responded by bringing more power plants online to meet those peak loads.

But James Bushnell, with the UC Energy Institute at Berkeley, says that only encourages more consumption:

James Bushnell: There’s a lot of ways to try and reduce demand a little bit in response to these heat waves, rather than just keep building more power plants to try and meet the demand.

Bushnell says one solution is to charge consumers for electricity in real time through so called “smart meters.” That way, people can respond to minute by minute price increases during heat waves.

He says as global warming drives more investments in wind energy, the ability for consumers to quickly reduce there electricity use will become even more important — especially on days when the wind doesn’t blow.

In Los Angeles, I’m Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

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