DREMC braces for a new system demand peak on Jan. 7

Friday, January 3, 2014

A stretch of the coldest temperatures in several years is headed to Middle Tennessee. Lows next Tuesday morning, Jan. 7, might dip to three or four degrees Fahrenheit, with wind chills driving the "feels-like" temperature to well below zero. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation (DREMC) could experience a system-wide peak of record unless steps are taken to reduce demand.

Co-op members are asked to conserve power, especially during the projected peak period of 6 to 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

DREMC's new Beat the Peakô program -- more than 4,200 households strong -- will be activated. Industrial and commercial customers in the ENERNOC program will be contacted about reducing demand, and the co-op's offices will curtail power use.

"There is not a shortage of electricity," DREMC president/CEO Michael Watson said. "This peak of record will have an economic impact by driving up the demand component of the wholesale rate."

The bill DREMC pays the Tennessee Valley Authority for wholesale power has two parts: energy and demand. Demand charges can be affected by monthly, annual and historic peaks. These periods of high demand can cause the price of wholesale power to ratchet up, going from 7 to 8 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) to more than $9 per kWh.

The cost of wholesale power accounts for about 70 cents of every dollar paid to DREMC by its members.

"The times you use electricity -- not just the amount you consume -- impacts how much Duck River Electric must pay for wholesale power," Watson said. "You won't immediately see the peak's effect on your electric bill. Inevitably, this additional cost must be accounted for in the overall rates."

A peak that occurred in 2011 cost DREMC $450,000 in additional wholesale charges, according to Watson.

"This is why we have established residential and industrial-and-commercial demand response programs. We want to do our best to avoid these peaks and save our members money," he said.

DREMC's residential demand response program is called Beat the Peakô. It is a data base of email addresses and texts of co-op members who have agreed to be notified in advance of peak power events. They are asked to implement energy-saving measures that are simple and painless, but that can make a big difference in DREMC's system demand during summer's intense heat or winter's freezing cold.

When they get a DREMC peak alert email, text or hear a DREMC peak warning on local radio this winter, there are simple measures to take for a few hours that can make a real difference in the cost of electricity:

* Dial down the setting on your thermostat by three or four degrees. If it is normally at 72 degrees, reduce the heat setting to 68 degrees or lower. Remember that the peak period only will last a few hours, and then you can resume your regular heat setting.

* Turn off lights and electrical devices in rooms that are not occupied. And if you haven't installed energy-saving compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs or LEDs, this would be a great way to help.

* Delay the use of major appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and clothes dryers.

* Postpone hot water use. In the winter, peaks are most likely to occur in the morning when folks are getting ready for work and school. Shift the time you use hot water from the peak demand period. Wait until mid-morning or afternoon to do the laundry. Shave and shower before bed if a peak alert has been issued for the next day.

For more information about the co-op's Beat the Peakô program, go to www.dremc.com