The warm temperatures are making the dials on electric meters across the state spin a little faster as air conditioners try to keep up. Alliant Energy spokesman, Justin Foss, says they have seen electric usage increase the last two days as temperatures soared. He says things are made worse because the temperatures are not dropping very far in the evening.
“When it’s also hot at night, these factories and your homes don’t have a chance to really cool down very well, and so it just stays hot. And the longer it goes and the hotter it is, it just compounds upon itself,” Foss says. Alliant has implemented an energy saving program for residential customers that kicks in when it gets this hot.
“From one until seven, on days when it is hot enough that we need to trigger it, it will turn the compressor unit of your air conditioning off in 15 minute cycles,” Foss explains. “However, it will let your furnace fan continue to run, so it will continue to blow the air throughout the house just like your air conditioning system normally would run,” according to Foss.
Iowa’s other major utility company, MidAmerican Energy, has a similar residential program called “summer saver.” MidAmerican spokesperson, Abby Bottenfield says they also have a program for businesses to reduce power usage.
“The company works with those customers during these events to reduce their energy use, by either reducing their use of the air conditioning, reducing or shifting the operation of other equipment, or by using auxiliary or onsite electrical generation,” Bottenfield says.
The electric companies are trying to avoid hitting their peak electric use. Bottenfield doesn’t know how close they will get to the peak in this latest heat wave.
“We get close to our peak usage when we start using our summer saver and curtailment program, but right now we are not sure if we will hit the peak usage,” Bottenfield says.
Alliant’s Foss says some people get the wrong idea that the company will run out of electricity of people don’t conserve during high usage periods. “It’s not about running out of energy. These programs, what they do is they make it more economical for everybody. Because when you’re hitting you peak and when you’re using that much energy, you have to buy it out on the open market,” Foss says.
“And when it’s hot like this, the rules of supply of demand really come into play, where the more energy that is being used, the more expensive it gets.” Foss says Alliant has used its cycling program two other times this year, both were in July.
The conservation programs are voluntary for both companies.