Frequently Asked Questions about Peak Demand

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Sustainability Committee

 What is electrical Peak Demand?

The electrical Peak Demand is the greatest amount of electricity that GUC must supply to all its customers at any given time, in any one month. Unfortunately, GUC does not actually know what the Peak Demand will be, when the Peak Demand period will occur, or when it has occurred until the month is over. GUC forecasts Peak Demand periods by analyzing anticipated unusually high or low temperatures, the current weather, average hourly industrial and residential usages, and known constant demands. GUC alerts its large customers of anticipated Peak Demand periods. ECU is one of many large customers receiving services from GUC in the region making Peak Demand prediction even harder.

Why does Demand matter?

The goal of GUC is to provide every industrial, institutional, and residential customer with adequate electrical power whenever it is needed. Therefore, GUC must be prepared to supply the maximum amount of electricity that might be demanded. Just as you "buy" electrical power from GUC, GUC "buys" electrical power from the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA). During the lower "normal" electrical load periods, GUC pays only pennies per kilowatt-hour. However, during a Peak Demand period, GUC may pay nearly twenty dollars per kilowatt-hour. GUC, in turn, passes Peak Demand rates onto its customers.

How does Demand affect ECU?

Reducing demand during anticipated Peak Demand periods allows the University to save on the overall cost of electricity. Also, reducing the overall electricity usage saves the University some on monthly charges. In fact, a concerted effort by the University community to reduce electricity consumption during Peak Demand periods coupled with several energy saving renovations has reduced the University's electrical expense by as much as $50,000 in one month. This amount of savings every month could translate into an annual savings of $600,000. Demand charges are very high during a Peak Demand period. For example, during the normal electrical load periods, ECU pays $.05 per kilowatt-hour of electricity that would power three PCs or ten 100-watt light bulbs. However, during Peak Demand, that same kilowatt-hour powering those same PCs or light bulbs will cost ECU $12.75. Therefore, there can be tremendous savings to ECU if less energy is being used during Peak Demand.

One other advantage of ECU using less power during Peak Demand is that this helps GUC keep the cost of what you pay for electricity at home lower.

What can I do to control Demand during a Peak Demand period?

There are many ways that you can help control demand. During Peak Demand periods, turn off all unnecessary lights and equipment including radios, fans, window air conditioners, etc. Your efforts do make a difference! But, remember, you must still be able to do your job. Peak Demand period has been announced. If every employee acts as an energy conservationist, especially during Peak Demand periods, the University will reduce its electrical expense. And, the savings may translate into more funds for other beneficial University expenditures and possible savings on your own electric bill at home.

Are there other reasons to reduce electrical consumption?

Consider another very important reason to reduce electrical consumption. The generation of electricity creates pollution. If not merely by its generation, then by the pollution produced in making and installing more transmission lines, transformers, substations, control equipment, and the associated construction. By reducing our electrical needs, we reduce the amount of pollution that would have been generated. Not only is energy conservation good for the University, but it is good for the environment and our community; more importantly, it is the right thing to do.

While Peak Demand periods are important, it is also important to save electricity on a routine basis to help reduce electrical costs. While you may not think your participation in these energy savings activities make a difference, remember that when your efforts are added to the efforts of a thousand other ECU faculty, staff, and students, it adds up to a big difference. To see how much energy is used by various kinds of appliances and equipment visit

Is it more cost effective to leave a fluorescent light on for an hour rather than turn it on and off 5 times within that hour with a total burn time of 5 minutes?

No.It is more cost effective to turn off a fluorescent light when not in use - even for short periods of time. According to the EPA, the advances in lighting technology over the past years have made the energy used to start a fluorescent lamp comparable to 5 seconds or less at normal operation. Consequently, turning the lights off for more than 5 seconds will save more energy than leaving them on.

How can I help save electricity on a daily basis?

  • Set your computer's power save settings.

  • Turn off computers daily especially over weekends and vacations.

  • Choose replacement equipment that is "Energy Star" rated.

  • Turn off lights in offices when not in use.

  • Use florescent task lighting for office work and turn off general lighting.

  • Have incandescent light bulbs replaced with energy saving florescent bulbs.

  • Consolidate departmental refrigerator use.

  • Eliminate space heaters from offices. This is also a safety requirement.

  • Eliminate personal energy consuming items such as fish tanks, decorative lighting, etc.

  • Maintain room temperature at 78 degrees during the summer months and between 68-70 during the winter -- wear sweaters.