Understanding Peak Demand
What would it take for electricity to meet residential gas use on a peak winter day?
December 22, 2022, was a cold day – it was a record send-out day for NW Natural. Between 8 – 9 a.m., NW Natural delivered approximately 41 million cubic feet of gas, of which about 23 million served our residential customers. NW Natural commissioned a consulting firm to help estimate what it would take for our local electric system to serve that same customer load for just that one hour. The preliminary analysis found that if all our residential customers’ appliances were replaced with electric ones, it would require more than 3.4 Gigawatts of new electric capacity to provide the same energy our system did.
To put this amount of energy into perspective, it’s equivalent to seven new 450-megawatt natural-gas fired power plants, which would cost roughly $4 billion to build. But by state policy, new gas power plants are likely very challenging to build in the Northwest, so we wanted to also explore what it would take with only electric renewables.
To rely on a combination of wind, solar, and battery storage would require about 14 GW of new capacity at a cost of approximately $20 billion – and that’s using National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and Berkeley National Labs capital cost data (not including any potential incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act). Based on NREL estimates, it would also require about 700 square miles of land to build all that new infrastructure on.
And importantly, these estimates don’t include the incremental electric transmission and distribution system costs or the cost to change out end-use appliances.
This example punctuates the value of the natural gas system for providing reliable energy to our communities when they need it the most.