Powering a Reliable and Sustainable Future: Understanding Electricity Demand

Powering a Reliable and Sustainable Future: Understanding Electricity Demand

Powering a Reliable and Sustainable Future: Understanding Electricity Demand

Electricity Demand 101

Electricity is flowing constantly to supply power to our homes and businesses. The demand for this electricity is defined by how much is being used at any given time. The more electricity people are using at the same moment, the higher the demand.

Electric consumption and demand are different in that consumption is determined by how much electricity you use over time, and demand is determined by the electricity you use at one time.

An example of this is when you use a 3-kilowatt (kw) oven over a one-hour period in the morning and then use your 3-kw washing machine for an hour in the evening, your demand is 3 kw because you’re using those appliances at different times. However, if you use the 3-kw oven and the 3-kw washing machine at the same time, your demand increases to 6 kw.

Now think about if all of Santee Cooper’s customers used their energy-intensive appliances (ovens, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryer, HVAC units, hot water heaters) at the same time, the electricity demand on Santee Cooper’s system would be extremely high.

You can learn more about electricity demand by watching this video.

Demand Matters

It is our job at Santee Cooper to make sure we always generate enough electricity to supply all our customers, no matter how many appliances or heating/cooling systems are being used at one time. We must be able to generate enough power whenever it’s needed – regardless of the demand. An increase in demand, though, can put a strain on the power grid.

If the demand for electricity grows beyond our existing capability to supply it, we must be ready with additional generation – either a new resource, which comes with a higher price tag, or the purchase of additional electricity on the market, which also can be a higher cost item.

Know When Demand Peaks

Demand for electricity ebbs and flows as we go through our collective routines. When we wake up, we turn on the lights, take hot showers, cook breakfast, adjust our thermostats. We’re usually all doing this during the same time period, which increases demand.

While we’re at work, though, many people aren’t at home using a lot of energy so the demand decreases.

Then, when we come home after school and work, we settle into our evening routines by watching TV, cooking dinner, doing laundry, doing the dishes, adjusting the thermostat, etc., and demand increases once again.

What You Can Do

You can help by being aware of peak times and shifting your energy use. The more we can spread out demand to avoid big peak periods, the less Santee Cooper must spend on buying additional power or building additional generating units. That can save you, our customers, money.

Here are simple things you can do to help reduce demand during peak times. 

  • Use a smart thermostat: These thermostats can make it easy to lower your heating and cooling usage when you’re not home.
  • Stagger your use of major appliances: Do your best to use major appliances like your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, oven and water heater at off-peak times.
  • Use a timer: This is a great way to make sure appliances like your water heater, dishwasher or pool pump only run when demand for electricity isn’t at its highest.
  • Use ENERGY STAR® appliances: If you’re in the market for new appliances, Santee Cooper’s rebates can help with the cost of energy-efficient equipment.

You can also join the SmartRewards community. SmartRewards is a voluntary program that offers you bill credits by letting us reduce your demand from major appliances during certain peak periods. Learn more here.

Author Nicole Aiello

Nicole Aiello

Nicole Aiello is Santee Cooper's director of public relations. She's been working in PR since 1997. After paying her dues in the Big Apple, she decided sun, sand and surf were preferable to shoveling snow, so she made her way to South Carolina. Nicole's professional experience ranges from the celebrity and entertainment industry to tourism, nonprofit and government communications. Nicole, who holds a bachelor of science from Ohio University's Scripps School of Journalism, currently calls Mount Pleasant home.