Utilities, Energy Traders Misunderestimated Drop in Power Demand During Eclipse
While U.S. utilities’ response to last week’s solar eclipse mostly went off without a hitch, it turns out they failed to factor in “irregular human behaviour patterns” that drove electricity demand down quite significantly while the epic event was under way.
“That’s the technical definition, from the folks who manage the electricity network at the Southwest Power Pool, for the conduct of millions of Americans who were outdoors ogling the moon shadowing the sun instead of cranking up the A/C in homes and offices,” Bloomberg reports. “This was a bummer for traders who’d bet prices would jump as a whole load of solar-produced megawatts faded to black.”
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Instead, demand fell about 2,500 megawatts below forecast in the Southwest Power Pool, which runs from North Dakota to Louisiana, and by 5,000 MW in the 13 states that draw their power from the PJM Interconnection grid.
U.S. electricity use normally increases as the country moves toward the middle of a summer day. But on the day of the eclipse, “it developed a weird, U-shaped dip over a two-hour period across the country,” Bloomberg notes.
Power planners also failed to fully account for cloud cover during the eclipse, or cooler air temperatures as the moon crossed the sun, putting downward pressure on electricity demand.
Bloomberg is pointing to the experience as a useful lesson learned ahead of the next eclipse, which can be accurately expected to take place on April 8, 2024. (Because…science.)