The frigid weather is increasing energy use, but trading is helping utilities meet power demand

Cold weather quickly turns lethal. Already, at least 11 people are dead in the United States from the weather as freezing temperatures and snowfall have crept as far south as Florida. This highlights the fact that heating is a lifesaving necessity in periods of extreme cold.

And as temperatures drop, energy demand shoots up, with people spending more time indoors and switching on furnaces. In fact, there’s pretty much a direct relationship between colder temperatures and increasing electricity use, as these charts from the Energy Information Administration show:

 Energy Information Administration

And now a “bomb cyclone” is spooling up to blanket swaths of the East Coast in cold and snow this week, causing even higher demand for heat. Cold snaps like the one we’re in are an especially big drain on the energy system since they are sudden and severe, giving power producers little time to prepare. Some utilities are already asking their customers to keep electricity consumption in check to cope with the surging demand.

One big question that crops up whenever temperatures drop and energy needs rise is whether we need more fossil fuels to provide a steady stream of power. Some, like Energy Secretary Rick Perry, have argued that not only does the grid need fossil fuels, but coal plants that lose money in open markets need to be propped up to ensure the grid’s reliability.

But past experiences with extreme cold show that fossil fuels can’t always keep us warm, and that it’s not the supply of fuel but the infrastructure around it that leads to problems like blackouts. Meanwhile, in the current cold, renewables like wind power are doing some of the lifting, Read More Here