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July 28, 2011

BGE: No plans to trigger Peak Rewards Friday

Temperatures are expected to push into the upper 90s across Central Maryland on Friday. But despite the forecast, BGE says it has no plans to activate its Peak Rewards shutoffs.

Of course, the utility cautions that "unforeseen operating conditions" could change that. They had no plans to activate Peak Rewards last week until grid managers asked them to. So it's a good Friday heatidea, if you're still participating, to make your own plans accordingly.

The forecast calls for a high of 98 at BWI-Marshall Airport, and 99 downtown. Heat Advisories have been issued for all of Central Maryland, and the Lower Shore, with highs potentially reaching the low 100s in some locations, and Heat Index values from 105 to 109 degrees. Two Marylanders died of heat-related causes during Heat Advisories last week.

BGE is urging customers to look for ways to conserve energy on Friday. Keep curtains closed, delay the use of heat-generating appliances until after 9 p.m. To which I would add, if you're vulnerable to the heat, find another, air-conditioned place to go if the utility announces Peak Rewards activation.

"We're extremely sensitive to the discomfort many of our Peak Rewards customers experienced during last Friday's system-wide emergency activation... particularly those who signed up for the highest cycling option and whose air conditioning was off for the duration of the event," said Jeannette Mills, chief BGE customer officer.

The utility is reviewing the program's performance last week, and expects to make any needed changes. Thousands of customers were without their AC for six to eight hours, and 2,500 subsequently quit the Peak Rewards program.

In other news related to the hot-weather forecast for Friday and Saturday, the Baltimore Health Department has already declared Code Red Heat Alerts for the city on both days, opening emergency cooling centers and sending workers out to check on vulnerable residents.

The Maryland State Highway Administration is advising motorists to prepare for the heat by making routine checks of their vehicles - hoses, belts, tires and fluid levels are good places to start. You don't want to be stranded out in the heat by a breakdown.

Park in shaded areas where possible. Remember to take your pets and children with you after you park your car. And bring plenty of water, just in case. And consider public transportation where you can.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:58 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Comments

I have to wonder if offering 100% program is really a good idea. We have the 50% program and we got up to 80 degrees or so, noticeably warmer but bearable enough. No regrets, but much gladness that we didn't pick the 100% level, especially with 2 small children. I can see that the program worked from an energy-saving perspective and it's certainly preferable to rolling blackouts... maybe a review will lead to keeping the 50% and 75% but ditching the 100% program?

I'll agree with Michelle. 100% is a bit drastic for more than a few hours. I'm guessing that people had $$$ in their eyes when they signed up for this level. After all, it never had happened before.

I have little sympathy for the people who didn't read what 100% really meant. I originally picked that level 2 years ago when I signed up and then thought otherwise. My 75% level was warm, but I lived :)

BGE probably has to protect us from ourselves when we see $$$ instead of practicality.

Looking at dollars instead of sense really needs no sympathy; rather, a review of reading comprehension might be in order. We don't need protecting from ourselves, we need to start teaching sense, and living with the consequences of our mistakes.

That said, here's why I think the Peak Rewards program is a bad idea overall - my opinion alone.

When your AC is off, your home builds up not only heat, but humidity. When that AC comes back on, it's going to start pulling all that moisture out of the air. This is usually when folks find out they're the proud owners of a clogged condensate drain - when all those gallons of collected condensate water end up on your floor. God help you if your air handler is in your attic. Chalk up repair expenses if you're not checking this for yourself, or having a technician check when you do your summer AC startup. (You do check it before starting it, right?)

Furthermore, your AC is going to run for a far longer time to bring the temperature in your home down to levels where you're comfortable. For those of you with heat pumps, that's probably three 240V ~2A motors running - for HOURS. For AC owners, the power hit is almost as bad. Per unit. Larger homes with two, three, or even more heat pumps/ACs are going to be sucking down a lot of amps. That's a LOT of juice you're paying for - every time it happens. Figure on it running 15 minutes for every degree of change.

Better to give your AC a chance to get to a comfortable temperature earlier in the cooler morning, and then run only when it must to hold it there, then to try and catch up wth a 85 degree house during the much warmer later parts of the day.

Finally, I'd wager that you're really NOT saving all that money you think you are, based on one last simple premise: business exists to make money. "Customer give-back" programs are almost universally better for the business than they are for the customer, or else they wouldn't be offering them.

FR REPLIES: It's not really about saving energy. In emergencies, like last week's, it's about shifting the energy load to late in the day, in order to flatten the afternoon demand peak. It avoids brownouts and blackouts. And it saves BGE and rate payers the cost of building new peaking generators, which are expensive and rarely needed. Non-emergency PeakRewards cycling is done when wholesale electric rates (which change from hour to hour every day) spike, sparing BGE and, ultimately, rate-payers, from the extra expense.

I agree 100% with both Michelle and Rick... we had (and still have) the 50% option, and while it got up to 80 degrees downstairs and 85 upstairs, we were able to manage... but I am glad we didn't pick one of the other plans.

Earl,

The BGE program exists not to make money directly off of us, but to meet regulatory requirements which allows BGE/Constellation to meet goals... which allows them to charge higher rate structures.

For some real insight into BGE/Cons, look at their proposal for energy savings- they wanted to force absolutely everyone into this program! The SUN did some good reporting on this. Fortunately MD didn't accept this proposal... and BGE had no back up plan, so MD has a very low enrollment rate.

I'm not in the program because they use their own thermostat, which does understand a modulating gas furnace nor dual fuel with outdoor thermometer setpoint (propane + heat pump).

Also my heat pump has only two motors, a 208V outside and a 110V ECM indoors. But you are right in one respect, cooling dense dry air is more efficient than drying thinner humid air (and no I don't have that backwards). However cooling in the evening and overnight is more efficient since the air is cooler and lack of solar heating of the outdoor unit.

@Earl:

You make one good point: humidity counts. As I posted elsewhere, I survived 100% cycling with minimal discomfort, in part because I have a well-insulated house with lots of shade. The downside, tho, is LOTS of humidity, especially in the downstairs (hillside site). After losing some books & prints to mildew, a few years ago I bought 2 free-standing dehumidifiers and I run them all summer ( yes, it uses electricity, and so does my well-pump). It makes a huge difference and I recommend it. The max temp I reached during the cycling was (briefly) 86, but with the dehumidifiers running it was not that uncomfortable, and once the ac came back on
the temperature and comfort level improved really quickly. I can't quantitatively prove or disprove your comments about the relative efficiency of cooling dry vs humid air, but I do reset my temp by hand due to an irregular schedule, and am surprised at how quickly it seems to respond, so even tho the dehumidifiers obviously use juice, there may be a modest offset in increased ac efficiency. The units I have cost about $100 each several years ago and neither has had any problems; one drains continuously into a floor drain and the second I have to empty by hand due to its location -- not a big deal.

Thought I should mention this, as nobody else had raised the subject of humidity and dehumidifiers.

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
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