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What is a Load Profile?

Eric Tallberg
Eric Tallberg

For better or worse, the civilized world is utterly dependent on commercially produced electricity. Data that is integral to the efficient and reliable delivery of electric service is calculated and recorded using a load profile, essentially a charting of peak and low electricity demand over the course of a specified time period. Power generation equipment variables, equitable supply, and energy marketing systems are all dependent on the accurate recording of an electrical load profile.

The load profile for a given area will, of course vary considerably depending on the different consumer categories, including commercial, residential, or industrial customers. Peak electrical demand also varies according to season and holiday demand, with the hotter summer days, and, typically, the Christmas season putting greater strain on the electrical supply system. These peaks and valleys in demand are essential data in calculating and evaluating equipment needs, maintenance, and upgrades.

Residential electric meter.
Residential electric meter.

The load profile, though often calculated, in part, on meter reading, and customer billing, is not intended as an economic predicator. Instead, load profiling is the most efficient method of determining equipment demands and maintenance, especially the upkeep, and installation of transformers; traditionally, the weak link in the power grid. Reading the maximum demand at the transformers at specified intervals, as well as correlating consumer types and needs, is the basis an accurate load profile.

Electricity distribution has evolved into a massive network of generators, transformers, power lines, and meters, all separately owned and operated by a significant number of independent electric providers. Numbers, and the varied electrical demands of customers, efficiency and age of equipment, as well as the type and amount of equipment varies immensely from region to region. This localization ensures that a load profile calculated for one region of a nation or state becoming essentially useless in evaluating and utilizing information beyond the particular localized area.

For this reason, the smart grid system, which uses digital technology to deliver electricity cheaper, “greener,” and more efficiently, is gaining credibility, at least in the United States, by using the load profile as a method for further refining and coordinating the efficiency, metering, and reliability of the nation’s power distribution through almost minute-by-minute profiling of the electrical load. As well, the smart grid arrangement allows consumers to sell power saved by the uses of alternative energy sources, such as solar or wind power back to the utility. Load profiling via smart grid technology will eventually be enlarged and internationalized to include Canada, a significant source of much of the electrical energy used in the northern U.S.

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    • Residential electric meter.
      Residential electric meter.