Low Load Growth, and What It Means for Utilities

Electricity demand in the Northwest has been flat since the mid-90s--is this the new normal?

The conventional wisdom of the past few years has been that the region's power system is becoming capacity constrained in part because of growing peak loads. But does the data support this perception?

A Council presentation on trends in regional energy and peak electricity loads tells a different story. Since 1995, annual energy loads grew at an average rate of only 0.40 percent, and winter peak loads haven't grown at all. 

What this portends for the energy industry is a topic of interest as work begins on the Seventh Power Plan. What sort of industry are we planning for? Utilities have traditionally planned system expansions to meet the expectation of growing loads, but the trend of the past 20 years suggests this may longer be the case.

Energy efficiency is a big reason why. It has helped the region grow economically without having to rely too heavily on adding new generating resources.

Other reasons for this minimal load growth, whether the trend will continue, and if it does, how utilities should respond, are questions likely to be explored at the Council's upcoming power system symposium. Stay tuned.