Just as we did last year, many Kendal and Crosslands residents are participating in our “Peak Alert” program. By reducing our use of electricity during the 4-6 p.m. period on days when the electrical grid is under stress, we are saving money and reducing the use of the worst-polluting generators on the grid. Last year, the program saved Kendal-Crosslands over $24,000.
The forecast high for today (August 9) is 93 degrees (which is higher than it was on some of our peak-alert days), and we’ll surely be using lots of electricity for air conditioning, but today will not be a peak-alert day. Why not?
The answer is that we are rewarded for conserving electricity when our entire region of the grid hits a peak, not when we have a local peak. Our grid region extends from New Jersey to Chicago, and as far south as Virginia. It is run by an organization called the PJM Independent System Operator. PJM assesses each commercial account (which KCC is) a “capacity charge” for the cost of paying generators to be on standby for peaks in electrical demand. This is a surcharge, over and above whatever we are paying for the actual electricity we use.
PJM calculates the capacity charge for the whole year based on just the highest five hours of peak demand during the summer. Of course, we can’t know in advance when those hours will be (in the past, they have happened at different times in June, July, and August) but PJM does put out 7-day forecasts which give a general idea of when a peak might occur.
Today’s hot weather is not cause for a peak alert because it is a relatively local event, not one that affects the entire PJM grid territory. Although our high is expected to be 93, the high in Pittsburgh is 79 and in Chicago just 72. Although there will be a lot of local electricity demand, the demand across the PJM region will not be especially high. That means today will not be among the five peak days for the PJM region, and therefore our electrical usage today will not affect our capacity charge.
It’s still a good idea to save electricity, of course, and using a bit less A/C today will help. It just won’t have nearly the impact on our bill that it would on a peak day.