Will AC use, electric car charging overload SC’s power grid?

If it seems like a hot summer this year, you’re probably not alone.

In fact, June 15 set a record high of that day of 98 degrees.

But for most of the summer, temperatures have not actually strayed too far from normal, deviating 1.1 degrees from the norm in June and only 0.6 degrees from the norm in July, according to Patrick Moore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service for the Greenville-Spartanburg area.

“There were plenty of days at or below normal,” he said.

But even normal summer temperatures in the Upstate can feel like scorchers, raising concerns over how the power grid will handle the increased load, especially with heavy air conditioning use and the growing number of electric cars.

ChargePoint and Tesla EV charging stations were installed at Carolina Travel Center off Exit 4 on I-85 in Fair Play.

EVs in South Carolina

  • Percentage of registered vehicles that are electric: 0.10%
  • Total registered electric vehicles: 4,390 (No. 28 overall)
  • Number of statewide charging stations: 384 (No. 28 overall)
  • Number of charging ports per 100 EVs: 19.6 (No. 23 overall)

–Copilot April 2022 EV Report

Handling the extra juice

Duke Energy already plans for all types of weather and power-usage scenarios that test the grid’s ability to function.

“We use historical data, real-time analysis and predictive modeling, as well as years of operational experience, to ensure the grid can reliably meet customer energy needs in the most challenging conditions,” said Ryan Mosier, a communications strategist with Duke Energy.

The energy company has a team of meteorologists who monitor weather situations and river and reservoir levels to make sure there’s always an adequate electricity supply, even as electric cars gradually join the roads.

In addition, Mosier said there are two voluntary, incentivized programs Duke started to reduce the load on the grid during times of extreme use. One is a program that allows for a technician to place a small device on outdoor HVAC units that will cut power when usage is at its greatest to avoid blackouts. Duke Energy also has a program that adjusts smart thermostats during peak usage hours in a situation that’s much like the AC control device program. In return for opting in, customers get perks like gift cards and $32 in annual credits on bills.

“As a fully integrated electric utility, our long-term planning helps drive strategic improvements in our generating fleet and our power-delivery infrastructure, helping us identify and address potential reliability risks before they occur,” Mosier said.

The days ahead

The monthly outlook for August is for temperatures to stay above normal — which has mostly been the norm for July, according to Moore. While his job focuses on day-t0-day weather, he said it’s impossible for him to tell what the next couple of years will be like.

But at least for now, it shouldn’t come with major power outputs.

Duke Energy programs

Requirements for Duke Energy’s smart thermostat program

  • Must be a Duke Energy residential electric customer and have the electric service in your name.
  • Must use electricity to heat and cool your home.
  • Must have installed an eligible internet-connected smart thermostat.
  • Must not be enrolled in the AC Control Device option.

Requirements for Duke Energy’s AC control program

  • Must be a Duke Energy residential customer.
  • Must own your single-family home.
  • Must have a functional central air conditioning unit with an outside compressor.
  • Not available in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon or Swain counties.

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