Episode 199: Why is forecasting electricity demand hard?

Forecasting electricity demand is difficult. But, why is it so hard? On this week’s Energy Bite, Richard Huntsinger, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

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HOST: Forecasting electricity demand is difficult. But, why is it so hard? On this week’s Energy Bite, Richard Huntsinger, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

HUNTSINGER: Utilities plan for electricity in advance of when it’s going to be used, based on forecasts of electricity demand, and then they add reserves just to be safe. The less sure they are of the predictions, the larger the reserves. Those reserves are expensive if it turns out you don’t need them. So, it’s important that (1) electric providers’ forecasts are accurate, but also (2) utilities understand how confident they can be in their forecasts. It’s actually pretty tricky to get both of these things right.

HOST:  What else makes predicting electricity demand so difficult?

HUNTSINGER: When consumers generate electricity with solar panels on their roofs or wind turbines in their backyards, this makes it more difficult for utilities to forecast electricity demand. They’ve worked out the computer models that they use to forecast electricity demand to take into account electricity that they’ve planned to produce, as well as how consumers will likely use it. However, now, forecasters need to enhance the computer models to account for unplanned electricity from these alternative energy sources that they know much less about than traditional sources. Effectively, they have to forecast several things at once that all interact with each other. It’s quite challenging. 

HOST: Do you generate electricity with solar panels or a wind turbine? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

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