Electrical power has become of those necessities that are nasty and expensive to provide. We are now dependent on it, are uncomfortable and cannot perform tasks when it isn't there.
Yet we do not like the sight of power lines, substations, and generating facilities (including green ones like solar farms and wind turbines)--certainly not in our back yards, and we are worried about the emissions from fossil fuel plants, environmental damage from hydroelectric dams, and radiation from nuclear stations. The building, upgrading, and maintaining of these facilities are reasons behind the seemingly climbing electric bills.
Therefore it is exciting to see governments like the U.S. government and the province of Ontario to consider, promote and bring in measures to enable green electric energy conservation, development and management, the latter in the form of smart grids. The more efficient and greener the electricity supply the fewer the consequences of providing it.
Yet has any organization taking a look at telework: touted as a means to reduce traffic demand and resulting high energy consumption and emissions, in a method known as transportation demand management or TDM, to do the same for electric power?
Here's why telework could be part of the power solution:
1. Peak demand shaving, especially in summer
Electricity demand spikes when people return home from workplaces because they switch on the lights, and more importantly, kick on and crank up the ACs, or in winter, electric heat if they have it. The added draw pulls more output especially from backup fossil fuel-generating plants.
Too often though the demand overloads electrical circuits leading to brownouts and blackouts, both of which can fry computers and other sensitive equipment. There is also a smaller, but still occurring spike in the morning as people arrive at their workplaces, and kick on the HVACs, switch on the lights, and boot up the equipment.
In contrast, teleworkers keep their lights and AC and heating systems on a steady and low rate. Consumption does not change as much as compared to their commuter counterparts. They also do not use electric rail and bus transit systems for work trips in those metro areas that have them.
2. Less facility-led consumption
Homes and offices require heating/AC, lighting, and power for equipment. There is electrical energy being consumed 24/7 in varying amounts regardless of occupancy. By shifting more workers home the lights can be extinguished and computer power draws diminished at no-longer-needed offices.
Also there are more alternative direct energy sources available at home, like oil and natural gas heat and modern efficient woodstoves. Temperatures can also be turned down to suit individual comfort and personal finances.
3. Business continuity
Teleworking can minimize the impacts of blackouts and brownouts and deliver business continuity by enabling organizations to spreading out their workforces. If the lights are out in Boston, Massachusetts chances are they will still be on in Boston Bar, British Columbia, Long Island.
If anyone has solid data and research on this we at TMC would be happy to see this.