Peak load is a period of time when electrical power is needed a sustained period based on demand. Also known as peak demand or peak load contribution, it is typically a shorter period when electricity is in high demand.
Related Article: How Power Pricing Works
Base load, on the other hand, is the minimum amount of electrical demand needed over a 24-hour time period. Also known as continuous load, base load requirements do not change as much.
To put it in simple terms, think of the electrical needs of a house. The constant power needed by the electrical grid is the base load. The peak load is when more power is needed, say when the family is all home at night watching TV and using a lot of electricity. It is a short, high demand period, because soon the family will go to sleep, turning off the TV and lights, and using less electricity. The base load is more constant, but lower, as electricity is still needed for heat or air conditioning, power outlets etc.
Important Differences Between Peak Load and Base Load
Peak load is less predictable than base load electricity. It can soar when air conditioners are turned on or when a snowstorm kicks in and the heat needs to be turned up, and peak electricity is more expensive.
What can be frustrating for some is that utility companies do not notify or alert energy users of peak load ahead of time — which means a surprisingly large bill can arrive at the end of the month. And since people often blast the air conditioning or heat when the weather shifts, they may not realize it is coming at a huge cost.
Users can implement a predictive analytics platform that can monitor grid consumption and weather in real-time in order to predict peak load hours (and therefore costs). These software solutions can alert users a day before, and then the user can decide what actions to take to reduce electricity use.
It’s important to remain aware of peak load and base load use and costs, as to understand when and why electrical costs surge. Since using a lot of electricity at peak load times can result in a large energy bill, users should stay well-informed.