Paying Money for Nothing

Not many people want to pay good money for nothing, but a relatively new business has the organizations operating your grid doing just that.

Grid operators are paying for negawatts.

Negawatts are watts that don’t exist, but an overzealous approach to demand response has turned them into gold for negawatt accumulators.

Demand response (DR) has been around for nearly as long as the grid has existed.

In the past, utilities would have large customers, usually industrial and commercial users of electricity, cut back their usage during peak periods when the grid was becoming overloaded. These customers had portions of their operations that could be shut down for short periods of time, maybe for as long as a few hours. Utilities would often give these customers a special rate so that they would incur the expense and inconvenience associated with reducing their usage of electricity.

Supermarkets could, for example, turn off half the store lighting. A factory could shut off half the lighting in the factory and offices.

Now, this has been taken to the extreme, where aggregators get small users to agree to cut back their usage of electricity during peak periods, or when there are unforeseen supply interruptions.

For this service, the aggregator can sell negawatts to grid operators.

If a customer turns off a 100 watt light bulb, it creates a 100 negawatts.

If the aggregator can get 1,000 customers to each turn off a 100 watt light bulb, it creates 100,000 Negawatts or 100 negative KW.

Negawatt symbol from Green Alliance
Negawatt symbol from Green Alliance

Obviously the grid operator is only interested if the aggregator can deliver Megawatts of negawatts.

All of this has been endorsed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and encouraged by proponents of wind and solar generated electricity, and by some politicians.

The reason FERC has endorsed negawatts is because wind and solar are unreliable, and can result in the sudden interruption of supply.

When the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining, wind turbines and solar installations stop generating electricity … and this can happen very suddenly.

The grid operator must replace this lost supply very quickly, within minutes, or the grid can become overloaded and collapse.

Traditionally, grid operators have relied on spinning reserves, usually natural gas turbines, that can be brought online very quickly.

Negawatts are supposed to achieve the same effect by having a multitude of small customers cut back on their usage.

The aggregator establishes an automatic process, where hundreds, or thousands, of small users with whom he has an agreement, will quickly cut off the portion of their usage that is not essential.

These negawatts have the effect of lowering demand, which reduces the need for bringing spinning reserves online.

There would, of course, be little need for negawatts if it weren’t for unreliable wind and solar power plants being added to the grid.

The concept of Demand Response isn’t new, and it can be used by utilities wherever there is a need.

Larger communities, such as the city of Richland, which was cited in a Wall Street Journal article promoting negawatts, can be enlisted in any such program sponsored by the utility. There is no need to pay negawatt aggregators to do the job.

Demand Response works without fancy new terms and complicated procedures which can only make the grid less reliable. Complexity increases risk.

The supposed allure of negawatts, is the idea that homeowners and small businesses can join the Demand Response team. Factually, however, homeowners and small business have very few opportunities for cutting back their usage of electricity, over and above what utilities can already accomplish.

Utilities, for example, can organize, homeowners who have electric water heaters to allow the utility to shut off the water heaters for short periods of time. They can do this by themselves, or by forming a non-profit to do the job for them. There’s no need to pay an aggregator to do this.

Negawatts are being used as a propaganda tool to promote the use of wind and solar.

Negawatts have become “politically correct”.

Demand Response has been used for decades, and utilities can implement DR programs wherever they may be needed. Adding the complexity of paying aggregators, and embellishing the concept of DR with a new politically correct term, negawatts, makes little sense.

Politicians should leave utilities alone and permit them to do the job of providing low cost, reliable electricity to all Americans.


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Nothing to Fear explains why CO2 isn’t to be feared. Chapter 15, An Alternative Hypothesis, describes Dr. Svensmark’s hypothesis on cosmic rays.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon:

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear
Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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