Gamification of demand response

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What started out as a standard demand response programme, has turned into one of the largest endeavours by a municipally-owned utility to manage and reduce electricity consumption by its residential and commercial customers to ‘save for tomorrow’.

This interview was originally published in The Global Power & Energy Elites 2021.

CPS Energy is the largest public power, natural gas, and electric company in the United States, providing safe, reliable, and competitively-priced service to 860,934 electric and 358,495 natural gas customers in San Antonio, Texas, and portions of seven adjoining counties.

The Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan (STEP) is CPS Energy’s nationally recognised energy efficiency and conservation programme. Introduced in 2009, STEP aimed to save 771MW of electricity by 2020. However, by August 2019, the STEP programme had reduced the city’s electricity demand by 845MW, exceeding the original goal set in 2009.

As such, in January 2020, the City Council voted to extend STEP through January 2021 so that CPS Energy could have time to work out a new, 10-year conservation plan. The one-year extension was aimed at reducing a further 75MW of demand and provided $70 million in funding for STEP for this past year. The STEP programme utilises energy efficiency, weatherisation, solar, demand response and customer engagement channels to help mitigate the burgeoning San Antonio metropolitan area’s increasing load growth and unpredictable generation from Texas’ renewable portfolio in recent years.

For years, CPS Energy has developed and administered a robust and active demand response programme. As the largest programme of its kind in Texas, the utility’s demand response programme boasts over 269MW of demand response: It consists of more than 150,000 thermostats and over 700 commercial customers. In order to engage additional customers, the utility launched its first behavioural demand response (BDR) programme in 2017, with a selection of 100,000 residential customers.

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