Research Report

Demand-Side Solutions to Winter Peaks and Constraints

April 15, 2021
Energy Efficiency Research

Achieving societal net zero goals requires electrifying the technology used to heat buildings. One of the most promising strategies available is the conversion of fossil-based heating to electric heat pumps. In combination with growing solar generation capacity, heat pumps’ efficient cooling will likely drive a reduction in net summer load and an increase in net winter load. Consequently, electric demand in many regions of the United States is projected to transition from peaking in summer to peaking in winter. Winter peaks differ from summer peaks in important ways (underlying technologies and fuels; time and duration of occurrence) and must be met with distinct solutions.

In this report we show how demand-side energy efficiency and demand response measures can mitigate winter peaks and other cold weather constraints. We summarize the current and future states of winter peaks geographically and temporally. We then identify more than 20 utility demand-side management (DSM) programs that can serve as models for effectively mitigating peak winter demand. To quantify DSM’s winter peak reduction potential, we conduct a modeling case study of an electrified New England in 2040, finding that measures that reduce space heating load — mainly improved building thermal envelopes and improved performance of cold climate air source heat pumps — provided an outsized benefit. We conclude with recommendations for how policymakers, regulators, utilities, program administrators, and grid planners can most effectively leverage DSM to address winter peaks and constraints.

View the Report

Suggested Citation

Specian, M., C. Cohn, and D. York. 2021. Demand-Side Solutions to Winter Peaks and Constraints. Washington, DC: ACEEE.


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Mike Specian
Utilities Manager
Charlotte Cohn
Dan York
Senior Fellow, Utilities and Local Policy

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Ben Somberg
Communications Director
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