New Englanders eagerly await a deserved break from biting winter weather, but this summer’s oppressive heat has pushed our limits. According to the National Weather Service, Boston declared its third official heatwave Tuesday when temperatures crested 90 degrees at Logan Airport before 11am. The Weather Service does not expect heat relief until at least Sunday.

Escaping unrelenting heat requires tremendous energy, and we don’t mean simply mustering motivation to visit one of Boston’s numerous cooling centers. According to ISO-New England, New England’s power grid operator, extremely hot temperatures and high humidity levels this week could push regional electricity use to near-record levels. While ISO-New England trusts power systems are currently adequate, as the heat wave increases, so does the importance of precautionary efforts. Because building materials retain heat, a concept known as thermal mass, means that the amount of energy required to cool a building on days 3-5 of a heatwave is significantly more than on days 1 or 2.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at ISO-New England Vamsi Chadalavada informs that “As the heat continues to build throughout the week, electricity demand is expected to increase significantly, which is likely to result in tight system conditions.ISO-New England has asked consumers to voluntarily conserve electricity as a precautionary effort to maintain supply and demand balance during this heat wave.

When heat waves strike, grid operators must either accommodate skyrocketing consumer energy demand, or face a scorching, and costly, alternative: grid breakdown. With a more modernized grid, it will be easier for customers to respond to local conditions, be they extreme, like our current heatwave, or ordinary, and take action to reduce energy use and demands on the grid.

NECEC member companies such as EnerNOCAmbientVarentecBRIDGE Energy GroupAnbaric Transmission, and VoltServer Inc. have technologies, products and services that provide innovative solutions which enhance the capabilities of the grid and reduce the likelihood of grid breakdown. They also help to mitigate large swings in electricity costs.

EnerNOC, an official market participant with ISO-New England, created DemandSMART, an intuitive, web-based application enabling power providers to turn to energy consumers for grid demand relief at critical times. Recently, EnerNOC’s DemandSMART has provided much needed relief as heat waves oppress Eastern and Western US.

Ambient”s innovative platform enables utilities to deploy and integrate multiple smart grid applications and technologies, in parallel on a single communications infrastructure, supporting Smart Metering, Distribution Automation, Distribution Management, Demand Response, Distributed Generation and more.

Similarly, Varentec created ENGO, or Edge of Network Grid Optimization, a hardware-software solution to monitor grid voltage and VAR to achieve optimal regulation of the power grid.

And BRIDGE Energy Group, a trusted Smart Grid integration partner, has proposed their BRIDGE eFAME Enterprise Methodology, a comprehensive methodology that enables a holistic and transparent approach to grid modernization initiatives focused on risk avoidance/reduction, efficiency in delivery, and quality in output. 

Recent weather patterns shine a bright spotlight on our nation’s grid potential. However, such matters should be scrutinized regularly to ensure consistent energy reliability in the future. As evidenced by our current grid endurance and the innovative demand solutions developed by NECEC member companies, New England is, and will continue to be, a leading supporter of grid modernization.

 

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Leah Fessler

Leah is the former Communications and Member Engagement Intern at the New England Clean Energy Council.

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