Hot weather causes a strain on our electrical grid as people turn up their air conditioners and farmers use irrigation pumps to water crops. This summer’s extreme temperatures are already pushing the limits, setting new records for peak energy demands in Idaho.
You have the power to take some simple steps to help ease this strain, conserve energy, reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, and aid our neighbors:
Adjust your thermostat to 78 degrees or higher. You probably won’t notice the slight change, but it helps ease strain on the electrical grid.
Wash dishes and clothes before noon. This avoids peak times when electricity demand is highest.
Avoid using your stove and oven. Cook outside if you can. It keeps your house cool and saves energy.
As dad used to say, “ Turn off the lights!” Enjoy the long days of summer and avoid turning on your lights from 4 to 9 p.m in southern Idaho, 1 to 8 pm up north.
Encourage your family and friends to take these steps, too. Share these tips to social media with the hashtag #IdahoEnergySavings
By limiting your use of appliances and lights during a few critical hours, you use less electricity which keeps the grid stable. Our neighbors who need to keep cool, especially folks with medical conditions and those living without air conditioning or in non-weatherized homes or shelters, will thank you, too!
Peak energy demand contributes to climate change
When the grid is stressed in Idaho, like it is now in reaction to extreme heat, utilities turn to their least efficient power plants to meet demand. These plants, powered by methane gas, are located near Mountain Home and Rathdrum.
Not only are these plants expensive to run, driving up our power bills, but they also emit pollutants into our air. These pollutants include health hazards like acid gases and particulates as well as greenhouse gases that are responsible for climate change. So by limiting our energy use during hot weather, we save money while protecting our climate and public health.
This week, Idaho Power has called for customers to reduce their energy use during the critical hours of 4 to 9 pm. Up north, Avista has called for their customers to do the same from 1 to 8 pm.
Utility companies across the West are asking customers to reduce their energy consumption so the grid stays balanced. Over the long term, adding more resources like solar power and batteries, will help maintain a balanced grid. As a result, Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power are adding more clean resources to their energy portfolios right now.
Individuals also have the power to act collectively to provide relief to our energy grid. For example, Idaho Power’s A/C Cool Credit program allows the utility to make small adjustments to the 30,000 households who participate, equal to 30 MW (enough to power 3,900 homes). If necessary, Idaho Power can lower each of these households’ energy consumption by a minor amount to keep the entire electrical grid steady. Similarly, Idaho Power pays large irrigators to lower their pumps’ energy use during critical times, providing more than 300 MW of flexibility.
Note that Idaho Power has these programs in place while Avista does not. That’s part of the reason those of us in southern Idaho haven’t experienced rolling blackouts like our North Idaho neighbors experienced on Monday and Tuesday.
To learn more about conserving energy: