US utilities increase reliance on traditional DR initiatives

Of the demand response capacity achieved, the energy providers had registered to achieve a total of 13,629MW throughout 2016.

This is according to a study conducted by the Smart Electric Power Alliance in partnership with Navigant Research. The study 2017 Utility Demand Response Market Snapshot includes results of programmes deployed by 104 utilities.

According to the findings, the majority of utilities in the US are heavily relying on traditional demand response technologies such as load control switches for air conditioners and water heaters. 41% of the survey respondents are offering AC switch programmes, 16% are offering water heater programmes.

An increase in the use of behavioural demand response measures fall under efforts by utilities to improve customer engagement, reduce demand during peak periods and improve customer services by helping consumers to reduce their energy bills.

However, the use of two-way communication technologies in demand response is also gaining popularity. 24% of utilities including DTE and Duke Energy say they communicate with smart thermostats installed in consumer’s homes to reduce energy usage. 9% are offering behavioral programmes to their residential customers.

Programmes such as direct install, self-install and bring-your-own-thermostat have been introduced to increase customer choice regarding which initiative they should participate in.

Utility firms have introduced a number of programmes to coordinate energy efficiency and demand response. These include combined programme offerings and incentives, combined marketing and education initiatives.

Advanced demand response applications such as electric vehicles are increasingly being used to increase integration of distributed energy resources with grid networks and to help energy providers to meet demand during peak periods.

Some of the findings of the report include:

  1. Utilities are increasingly looking to target DR in specific distribution-level areas with high load growth or infrastructure constraints. Ten percent of the utilities providing DR data for SEPA’s Utility Survey have leveraged locational deployment of DR for non-wires grid upgrades (commonly known as non-wires solutions or alternatives). Another 60% are planning, researching, or considering such an approach.
  2. Newer forms of DR are emerging in the industry and being integrated with other distributed energy resources (DERs). This transition and expansion in demand response markets are being driven by a few key trends including: Needs at the grid edge: DER growth and constraints along the electric system are opening up opportunities for demand response to play a greater role along the grid edge.
    Consumer products entering the power space: Newer demand response technologies (e.g., smart thermostats and other complementary technologies) are enabling easier deployment for certain demand response programs.
    Integration: New platforms and programs are combining DR with other DERs. Examples include deploying energy storage for demand response applications, and using demand response to buffer renewable generation variability along the grid.