Electricity demand outpacing supply in North America

Demand for electricity in the U.S. is increasing three times faster than power plants and lines are being built, says a new report from the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC). U.S. energy demand is predicted to increase about 19 or 20 percent in the next decade; in the next two or three years, power generation and transmission capacities are likely to drop below ensured reliability levels on peak days in Texas, New England, the mid-Atlantic area, and the Midwest, NERC predicts. Conservation programs will need to at least double their reach and effectiveness to help close the gap between supply and demand, says NERC president and CEO Rick Sergel. The report suggests that utility companies use financial incentives to encourage customer energy efficiency during peak hours. “We can’t continue this ‘just-in-time’ planning much longer,” says Sergel, noting that grid officials forecast electricity use based on “normal weather” patterns — not increasingly warm winters and hot summers.