An Inside Look at EIA’s Hourly Electric Grid Monitor

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What is the appeal of hourly electric grid monitoring? At first glance, this information may seem irrelevant.

At least for the average joe looking for residential solar. However, it actually can be quite useful.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a beta of their new website in August of 2019. One of the main features of this site is hourly grid monitoring.

This site monitors electricity petroleum and natural gas. It then provides this information for public use.

An Overview of the EIA Website Changes

Knowledge has become readily available. Anything someone wants to know is accessible with a click of a button or voice command.

Keeping this information relevant and up to date is essential for our high paced society, which is why the EIA has added some new features to its website. These features give users an enhanced look at the electric grid and its power sources.

Hourly Electricity Generation by Energy Source

The hourly generation by source takes a look at which sources are generating power. It lets individuals determine when each source produces the most and how they compare to each other.

photo credit: EIA

Hourly Subregional Demand

Hourly subregional demand allows users to look at their region’s energy consumption. This feature shows how much energy Americans have consumed and when.

A Couple Other Improvements

Although there are only two main upgrades, these aren’t the only improvements on this site. The EIA website now has more flexible visualizing data.

It also has custom dashboards, which users can manipulate, save and share. Rearranging hour-by-hour data in the custom dashboards yields some interesting insights.

How to Manipulate Data for Consumer Use

Manipulating the data on this website is an exciting step in the right direction. It allows users to access information and customize it to their needs.

For the average person, this data can help determine when to use electricity. There are certain times of the day when customers use more energy. Users that consume energy during these hours get charged a premium.

Customers, however, can avoid this charge. With the help of day-ahead hourly demand forecasting, residents have a leg up.

Tools on this website help individuals determine the energy demand for their state, which helps consumers decide when to do their high energy activities.

Step by Step Directions

To access these tools go to the dashboard tab on the hourly grid monitoring page. Then scroll down to the U.S. electricity overview dashboard. It should be the second one from the top.

If the cursor is over a data point in the graph, it will show the usage at each hour. This tool can also customize to a specific region, time zone, and period.

To do this, click the icon that looks like a sprocket wheel in the right-hand corner of the dashboard. A screen will then pop up, allowing the user to determine what information they want to see.

Photo Credit: EIA

Once finished, click the green checkmark button on the right-hand side of the screen. It will then show the created dashboard.

Knowing the fluctuation of electricity on the grid is good to know. It gives people real-time knowledge of when they are going to be charged more or less for their energy use. This information, however, also gives customers control over their energy consumption habits.

Using This Data and Solar to Improve Energy Habits

The average person doesn’t think about the best time to do a load of laundry. They put in a load of laundry when they are out of clean clothes without thinking about it. However, when people choose to do high-energy tasks like laundry can make a difference.

Utilities often have time-of-use rates. These rates are higher during peak hours, which are the hours when the grid receives the most demand.

We all know that turning off the lights when we leave a room will save money. This energy-conscious behavior, however, can be better implemented.

Knowing which hours will cost more or less gives customers even greater control. Let’s take a look at some of the high-energy activities people might consider doing at a different time.

Activities That Consume the Most Energy

There are different types of high-energy appliances. These include high consumption appliances and vampire appliances.

Vampire appliances pull electricity off the grid even when not used. The highest vampire appliances include satellite dishes, laptops and printers.

High-energy appliances use a lot of electricity. Some high-energy items include heaters, air conditioning, water heaters, lights, and clothes dryers.

There are a couple of different ways to decrease the use of energy-heavy appliances. Individuals can unplug the item.

It is easiest to unplug devices that aren’t used all the time, like TVs and laptops. Unplugging something like a fridge isn’t the best idea.

One way to make turning off these items easier is to put them on a power strip. It allows the devices to turn off without having to unplug them. 

Another way to decrease energy use is by completing high-energy tasks during low-demand times. Doing the laundry, dishes, or cooking during these hours will save money. Another way to save money is by switching to a different power source.

Solar Panels, Battery Backup and Decreased Consumption

Conserving energy use is a great way to save money. However, combining energy-conscious habits with solar saves even more.

Residential solar has gotten to the point where it costs less than power from the utility. This cost reduction is good for the consumer because they can now have even greater control for less.

Solar savings increase when combined with battery backup. Solar on its own will not save excess power for later, which makes the consumer reliant on the grid. 

With battery backup, the battery stores that power. There are several different levels of battery backup. Which one to buy is dependent on the customer’s needs.

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