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Power demand stayed below record levels during heatwave

22nd Jan 2013

As the mercury rose in recent weeks, many Australians would have taken shelter in cool air-conditioned homes and businesses.

You'd be crazy not to as well, with record temperatures all over the country.

In such conditions, concerns may turn to a spike in electricity demand. However, it seems that record highs on the thermometer were not accompanied by huge readouts on the electricity meter.

ABC news reports that power demand did not eclipse previous records in the Hunter Valley on Friday, despite the entire region baking in temperatures well above 40 degrees.

Could this be a blip, an unexplainable occurrence? Not according to Rob Cooper of Macquarie Generation, the operator of the valley's largest power stations.

"Increased use of roof-top solar, various demand management initiatives, obviously the recent increases in prices that people are seeing at home, all of those factors have led to a reduction in electricity demand over recent years," Mr Cooper told in an article published today (January 22).

Predictably, electricity generation spiked about 4.30pm, Mr Cooper said, about the time when people get home and fire up the air conditioner.

However, the noticeable lack of a new record for electricity demand showed "how well people are managing their energy usage".

Green Energy Markets reported this month that electricity consumption in the National Electricity Market (NEM) - all states except for WA and NT - decreased in 2012 compared to 2011.

In fact it was the biggest decline in four consecutive years of falling consumption. What's going on? And should this be a surprise?

Climate Spectator columnist Alan Pears wrote yesterday (January 21) that any sense of incredulity at decreasing electricity demand simply shows the limits of current forecasting and modelling.

Mr Pears points to many factors which have changed the scene for energy use in Australia.

He says that unlike in decades past, upgrading an appliance like a TV today often means getting a more energy efficient device, rather than one that guzzles more electricity.

Similarly, he says that the message about energy efficiency is getting across to Australians.

People are doing more to actively curb their usage, for instance by switching things off when not in use or by installing more efficient light bulbs and other home and office equipment.

He also points out that around ten per cent of Australian households can now claim to be solar energy generators.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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