Extreme cold weather from the “bomb cyclone” is affecting a large swath of the country this week from the South through the Northeast. More energy than usual is needed to heat homes, and in regions where many houses and residential buildings are heated through electricity, this has meant increased electricity usage (36 percent of U.S. households use electrical heating). Spikes in electricity demand can strain the grid and test the limits of available supply; in Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia, for example, utilities urged residents to take measures to reduce power use at peak hours.
Some of This Electricity is Actually Going Toward Heating the Outdoors
Houses and buildings vary widely in how well they contain heat. On average, 25 to 40 percent of heat produced in residences is leaked outside. And the residential sector accounts for about 20 percent of total U.S. energy use. We won’t hazard an exact number, but the point is that a good chunk of the extra electricity demand this week is going toward heating the outdoors, sending hard-earned dollars to the trash and generating emissions for no good purpose.
Energy Debate Focuses on Producing Electricity
Unfortunately, much of the energy policy debate this week concerning the cold weather turns a blind eye to these opportunities and instead focuses on the narrow question of electricity generation. The playing field for this debate is a rule proposed by the Department of Energy (DOE) concerning the resilience of the electrical grid; the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has through Wednesday of next week to announce a final action on the proposal. Unfortunately, the proposal failed to realize the grid resilience benefits of improved home weatherization. This focus takes the massive amounts of wasted energy as a given, as if it can’t be changed.
Read more (Alliance to Save Energy)