Electricity is measured in two ways, kilowatts (kW), and kilowatt hours (kWh). Superficially they may not seem very different, certainly not to your residential customers. Yet as stress on the grid in terms of kW increases, the differentiation becomes even more important for your customers to understand.
kW vs kWh
Kilowatts are a measure of energy generated, whereas kilowatt hours are a measure of energy used. While your commercial and industrial customers are already becoming familiar with the distinction, your residential customers will likely not be. Billed for kWh used, that’s the metric they’ll be most familiar with.
According to the Energy Information Administration, nationwide energy usage (in kWh) has largely remained steady over the past decade, in part to concerted conservation efforts and increasing consumer knowledge. Yet despite the steadiness of overall usage, consumption (in kWh) continues to significantly rise during peak usage times over the summer months. Increase in demand (in kW) requires an increase in generation capacity.
This tug of war between generation capacity and usage demand, between kW and kWh, is exacerbated as renewable energy, which cannot be managed by dispatchers, is distributed into the grid. Especially during peak hours, this further stresses the grid and makes balancing generation and demand difficult.
Shift in Thinking
To help mitigate grid stress and manage demand in a more efficient manner, your customers have to undergo a shift in thinking from energy efficiency in terms of kWh used to kW demanded — from how they use energy to when they use energy.
The benefits of doing so can be quantified; this is most effectively done with the health and well-being benefits that come from overall improved energy efficiency.
Improved energy efficient appliances, insulation, and weatherization efforts can all lead to direct health improvements for occupants, including reductions in symptoms of allergies, rheumatism, arthritis, and respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.
Smart utilization of appliances such as air conditioners during off-peak times not only reduces grid stress, but also increases efficiency of both energy and the appliance, therefore improving comfort.
Some studies have even shown that certain improvements in mental health can be linked to intelligent energy efficiency measures.
Strategies and Tactics
Generally speaking, there are two ways in which your consumers can advance energy efficiency while at the same time easing demand management.
First, they can continue with the energy efficiency tools and methods that have been so effective so far, leading to near-stagnant energy usage despite a growing population. These include using energy efficiency appliances, reviewing Energy Guide labels, using electricity usage monitors to track, calculate, and amend energy consumption, and so on. These are important tools and should not be neglected.
Second, urge them to start thinking of energy in terms of when it is consumed. By being mindful of peak usage times and using around them, they can help reduce peak demand, allowing you to focus on grid modernization and management as opposed to infrastructural capacity increases.
If your customers are going to continue or begin energy efficiency efforts, and consider times of high energy demand on top of that, it is important that you provide them with tools that will help them do so.
AM Conservation Group offers a number of energy efficient products, including lighting and energy efficiency kits. Or, to help educate them, consider downloading and distributing our CTA to Myths and Facts About Energy Efficiency.