In the US, Californian state utility San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has introduced a new customer demand-response programme as the summer months bring increased pressure on the electricity grid as well as threats of heat waves and wildfires.

SDG&E recently launched the Reduce Your Use thermostat programme that provides communicating thermostats to eligible business and residential customers free of charge, and enables customers with the thermostats to receive a higher bill credit on so-called Reduce Your Use Rewards days.

The connected thermostats, either through Wi-Fi or connected to customers’ smart meters, are able to receive a signal directly from SDG&E on Reduce Your Use Rewards days.

Since 2012, SDG&E residential customers have been able to earn a bill credit for saving energy on specific high-demand days through Reduce Your Use rewards.

This year, customers must sign up to receive Reduce Your Use email, text, or, new for 2014, voice alerts in order to participate and receive a bill credit.

Steven D. Davis, SDG&E’s president and chief operating officer, said: “SDG&E is prepared to meet this summer’s energy demand but we expect that there will be days when we will need help from customers through conservation and demand response and we appreciate all efforts by our customers so far this year to help keep the electric system running smoothly during the recent wildfires.”

Grid reliability

SDG&E has increased the reliability of the local grid over the past year with several major transmission system enhancements as well as continuing to coordinate with the California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO) and Southern California Edison on contingency plans for adequate electricity resources for customers throughout Southern California.

The ISO, responsible for managing the bulk of the state’s power grid, recently issued its 2014 Summer Assessment that predicts an adequate supply of electricity for meeting summer peak conditions across the state despite well below average hydroelectric supply.

The assessment identified local reliability concerns focused on southern Orange and San Diego counties during extensive heat waves but reliability levels are still within operating standards.

There is an estimate of 54,171 megawatts (MW) of power plant capacity available this summer within the ISO grid, including new generation of 3,644 MW and an additional 117 MW expected to come online by July 4.

About 61 percent of the new power supply comes from solar power with about seven percent from other renewables.

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