Smart grid – demand response and consumers


By João Batista Gomes

Consumers were previously treated in a homogeneous way, but today with the introduction of new technologies each consumer will have different features.

For utilities to succeed in developing this new scenario, they must have the ability to understand the different distribution topologies and further to understand the consumption profile of each class of consumer.

Demand response involves encouraging customers to cut back or shift their electrical use in response to power grid needs, economic signals from a competitive wholesale market or special retail rates.

This needs a real time demand side infrastructure to respond to supply side problems. This demand response infrastructure must be compatible with the requirements of the independent system operator and the electric utility companies while serving the loads and needs of electricity customers.

Demand response has revolutionized the way we manage our energy consumption, allowing us to reduce our overall energy use and generate new cash streams that can be directed towards future energy efficiency efforts.

Today there are three different types of demand response services.
The first is where customers receive compensation for electing to standby to reduce a portion of their electric demand in a grid emergency. These are called “capacity resources” and are typically activated a few times a year for up to 6 hours at a time.
The second type involves sending customers price signals to encourage them to reduce demand during peak hours. The higher the hourly prices, the greater financial incentive a customer has for reducing their electric load. Customers can participate at their discretion for as little as one hour at a time. These are called “energy markets.”
The last involves very short grid-initiated curtailment events with very short notification. These are typically 10 to 30 minute reductions with 10 minutes notice. These are called “ancillary services” and help the grid operator smooth out short-term imbalances of electrical supply.

In this context different utilities or regions, substations, feeders and consumers need to be treated differently, and if utilities understand this, they will have fewer problems with their consumers.

In a project that I developed where demand response and demand side management were priorities, in the first three months consumers were sent two different bills. The first bill was the same as they have received in the past, but the second bill came with their record of consumption in three different time-bands and with special rates in these three different times.
In these first three months the consumers paid the electric bill of the lesser amount, enabling them to test different ways and times of using energy and adapt them to their lifestyles.

After the three months a consumer communication campaign was introduced through local media and other sources, in which he consumers were also encouraged to put forward questions. By the end of six months the consumers were found to have few doubts or uncertainties about the project and almost all were totally committed to it.

This is the best way – to educate and engage the consumer in this new concept – the smart grid – and it is a pity that this is not being implemented. It is more friendly to educate the consumer and also the staff of the utilities can become involved.