Global Trends Poised to Drive Load Growth

For much of the 21st century, load growth has been flat – or in some periods – slightly negative. Load forecasts in regions such as PJM tended to overshoot reality as demand response and energy efficiency gained traction in the early 2000s. Reserve margins grew as renewable interconnections nearly quadrupled in the last few years.

Two phenomena have the potential to change this trend:

  1. Transportation electrification, and
  2. Re-shoring / On-shoring of high-value and critical manufacturing.

Direct incentives and subsidies for charging stations and fleet vehicles (e.g. school buses) will create local impacts on the distribution system. These will be felt initially on rural and small municipal electric systems with Level 3 charging facilities at highway, turnpike and thruway rest areas, and at schools and government facilities. Level 1 and 2 chargers will incrementally affect residential load profiles, initially in higher-income zip codes. Depending on the alignment of reality with aspirational goals set by policymakers and vehicle manufacturers, the effect will likely be felt, over time, first on distribution circuits and substations, and then up to the transmission system.

Industrial-scale loads in the form of metal processing and data centers over the next five years are forecast to have 2-5 GW impacts each in at least three zones in PJM – AEP (American Electric Power), ATSI and APS (FirstEnergy) and Dominion (including Dominion Energy and Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative). At least one of the zones has requested a load forecast adjustment in the five year planning horizon, and another beyond. While these adjustments do not approach the consistent load growth linked to GDP (and its prior metric, GNP) that was seen before 1973, it is a wake-up call to planners that global trends will impact infrastructure both from the bottom up in distribution, and the top down in transmission.

The engineering, program and project management professionals at Tangibl can help add clarity to these and other issues specific to how this potential load growth impacts you or your organization. Contact us to discuss any of these issues in more detail.