As the east coast experiences yet another heat wave this week, we are also experiencing peak demand for electricity to run all those air conditioners. As demand increases, so does our reliance on dirtier forms of energy like coal and oil. With a few small adjustments, you can help keep the peak demand for electricity down and keep these dirty energy power plants powered down.
Under normal circumstances, in New England, coal provides about 2-3% of our electricity, but during a peak demand like we are expecting today, that goes up to over 8-10% of our electricity. I heard that yesterday, coal was contributing about 12% of our 27 GW of electricity during the hot afternoon. Similarly, oil usually contributes close to 0% of our electricity, but during a peak event like this week, oil can be over 8%. Not only do coal and oil contribute more CO2 per kWh than natural gas and other cleaner forms of electricity, but they also produce more pollution in the form of mercury, sulfur dioxide, etc.
Here’s what you can do to make a difference.
- Avoid running appliances during the peak hours from noon to 7pm. Things like dishwashers, dryers, and washing machines usually have a delay cycle. What we do is load the dishwasher after work and then set it to come on between 2-3am when electricity demand is lowest.
- Raise the temperature by a degree or two. You probably won’t notice raising the room temperature by a degree or two, but it can make a significant difference in reducing the electricity demand, especially during the hottest parts of the day.
- Stay cooler with fans. Moving air makes the body feel 5-10° cooler. Combine it with raising the temperature on your AC and you can feel just as comfortable and use less energy. Remember to turn off fans when you leave the room as their benefit is only when you are actually there.
- Turn off as many of the lights in your office as you can to still be effective at getting work done. As an added benefit, you will also reduce the amount of heat produced by the lights that the AC has to handle.
- Close the shades or curtains. By drawing the curtains, especially on southern and western facing windows, you can dramatically decrease the solar heat gain and reduce the load on your air conditioning.
- Turn off unnecessary devices. If you are not using your computer, or printer, shut them off, especially between noon to 7pm.
While each of us only contributes a small fraction to the peak load (27 GW forecast today), with many of us doing these small things we can make a difference and lower the peak therefor reducing the usage of dirty fuels like coal and oil.
For more great tips on staying cool in a heat wave, check out our post Green Ways to Stay Cool in a Heat Wave.
What are your favorite ways to save energy in the summer?