Climate change and peak demand for electricity: Evaluating policies for reducing peak demand under different climate change scenarios

Abigail Walker Anthony, University of Rhode Island


This research focuses on the relative advantages and disadvantages of using price-based and quantity-based controls for electricity markets. It also presents a detailed analysis of one specific approach to quantity based controls: the SmartAC program implemented in Stockton, California. Finally, the research forecasts electricity demand under various climate scenarios, and estimates potential cost savings that could result from a direct quantity control program over the next 50 years in each scenario. ^ The traditional approach to dealing with the problem of peak demand for electricity is to invest in a large stock of excess capital that is rarely used, thereby greatly increasing production costs. Because this approach has proved so expensive, there has been a focus on identifying alternative approaches for dealing with peak demand problems. ^ This research focuses on two approaches: price based approaches, such as real time pricing, and quantity based approaches, whereby the utility directly controls at least some elements of electricity used by consumers. This research suggests that well-designed policies for reducing peak demand might include both price and quantity controls. ^ In theory, sufficiently high peak prices occurring during periods of peak demand and/or low supply can cause the quantity of electricity demanded to decline until demand is in balance with system capacity, potentially reducing the total amount of generation capacity needed to meet demand and helping meet electricity demand at the lowest cost. However, consumers need to be well informed about real-time prices for the pricing strategy to work as well as theory suggests. While this might be an appropriate assumption for large industrial and commercial users who have potentially large economic incentives, there is not yet enough research on whether households will fully understand and respond to real-time prices. ^ Thus, while real-time pricing can be an effective tool for addressing the peak load problems, pricing approaches are not well suited to ensure system reliability. This research shows that direct quantity controls are better suited for avoiding catastrophic failure that results when demand exceeds supply capacity. ^

Subject Area

Economics, General|Energy

Recommended Citation

Abigail Walker Anthony, "Climate change and peak demand for electricity: Evaluating policies for reducing peak demand under different climate change scenarios" (2009). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3380541.