July 22 News: During Heat Waves, Energy Companies Reward Customers Who Save Energy

As people use more energy to cool their homes during increasing heat waves, one thing utilities are trying is to reward homes for reduced energy use during peak times. [Wall Street Journal]

As residents of the East Coast cranked up their air conditioners in last week’s stifling heat wave, utility officials turned not only to every available power plant but also to increasingly popular “demand response” programs that reward customers for cutting power use at peak times.

In the energy world, where units of electricity are measured in “megawatts” or millions of watts, these peak-time conservation efforts are said to provide valuable “negawatts” that help cushion the electric grid against surges in demand that can send prices soaring and even cause outages.

In New York, for example, a program run by the state’s grid operator produced energy savings on Friday equivalent to the output of two large power plants. Electricity use that day peaked at 33,955 megawatts, beating the prior state record set Aug. 2, 2006, of 33,939 megawatts.

The program was crucial, said Tom Rumsey, vice president of external affairs at the New York Independent System Operator, which manages power flows in the state. “Every generating asset we had was working all week and we were just a couple hundred megawatts away” from running dangerously low on power.

Tokyo Electric Power has admitted that the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has been leaking radioactive water into the ocean. [AP]

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ICYMI: the Wall Street Journal finds that it many cases it now costs $0.00 to lease and drive an electric car. Not a typo. [Gas2, Wall Street Journal]

Researchers at Ohio State University want to place a working shale oil and gas well on land owned by the school to investigate what effect fracking has on air and groundwater pollution. [Columbus Dispatch]

Increased atmospheric CO2 is making poison ivy grow faster and more potent — in the last 50 years, the growth rate of poison ivy has doubled. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Washington, DC set a record for the longest period of time constantly above 80 degrees last week — more than five and a half days without break. [Capital Weather Gang]

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Climate change is likely to wipe out the Iberian lynx, the world’s rarest cat, within 50 years. [Agence France-Presse]

Eight GOP governors from coastal states wrote to their congressional delegations to ask them to “champion” offshore drilling. [Fuel Fix] Federal and local agencies are accelerating efforts to thin vegetation in Colorado in the hopes they can prevent and slow the spread of wildfires. [AP]

As Maryland looks at 6 feet of sea level rise this century, cities and towns have to make some tough decisions about how to adapt, especially when storm surges are taken into account. [Washington Post]

As the Arctic becomes increasingly ice-free, the U.S. finds itself falling behind in terms of mapping the sea floor, enforcing environmental protections, conduct search-and-rescue operations, or sending a single Navy surface ship to the area. [Climate Central]

The Mountain Fire in Southern California has burned 40 square miles but is now 68 percent contained. [USA Today]

Drought is to blame for historically low water levels in six Central Texas lakes that were dammed 80 years ago. [AP]

White House energy advisor Heather Zichal met with climate hawks on Capitol Hill to brief them on the schedule of proposed carbon regulations and how climate change needs to be talked about at the local level. [The Hill]

Texas and California lead the way in smart grid investment, according to a new report. [Greentech Media]

India’s renewable energy requirement seems to be working, as the power portion of the country’s largest industrial group announced it will finish a 28 megawatt solar power plant this year. [Bloomberg]