News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Growth in Power Demand Slowing Nationwide

Energy demand is slackening | Photo: Fried Dough/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Growth in demand for electrical power in the United States is unlikely to return to levels the nation saw before the economic crash of 2008-9, according to the Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Speaking today at a meeting sponsored by The Hill, FERC head Jon Wellinghoff said that it was unlikely that power demand growth would reach 3 percent annually, as it was before the economy collapsed in the last months of the Bush administration.

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Wellinghoff cited the increasing use of more efficient appliances, especially LED screens replacing plasma televisions and cathode ray tub computer monitors, as one reason he felt demand for electrical power would likely increase only by its current growth rate of one percent or so.

Another reason Wellinghoff cited is the increasing prevalence of demand response programs, in which tasks that require large amounts of electrical power are curtailed during peak periods. FERC requires that grid operators value power conserved in demand response programs as highly as that generated by peak power sources, meaning that large companies could make as much per kilowatt-hour conserved by shutting down machinery for brief periods as a power plant operator would make selling that amount of power.

A recent article in the publication Public Utilities Fortnightly claims that demand response could cut peak power demand by as much as 15 percent in the next few years.

In related news, Wellinghoff told The Hill reporter Zack Colman after the event that the recent fines FERC asked for from JP Morgan Chase and Barclays for allegedly gaming the California power markets were likely to become more frequent occurrences as the Commission gears up to combat misconduct in energy trading. "It's just a matter of us finally gearing up, having the resources, having the capabilities," Wellinghoff said. FERC slapped a $470 million fine on Barclays this year, and proposed JP Morgan Chase be made to pay $435 million earlier in the year.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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