Based on recent data, it is easy to see why a “dynamic” approach to electric load management (kW) will become the norm between utilities and energy consumers. The following article on load response drivers was contributed by Peter Kelly-Detwiler, Senior Vice President, Demand Response at Constellation Energy. — Eric Woodroof
The need for load response – the curtailing of electricity consumption based on the electric grid’s changing stress levels – will only increase over time, especially as energy prices continue to reflect the growing demand for power.
According to Greentech Media, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission estimated that load response caused a reduction of 37 gigawatts in peak demand in 2009, and FERC projects this figure could rise to 188 gigawatts in 2019. At the same time, load response will play an increasing role as a backup for renewable energy generation, which is intermittent and cannot be stored.
For busy facility managers balancing power demand and operations at one or more locations, initiating load response as part of an overall cost-effective energy management strategy is becoming easier – and even more necessary. Below are six developments driving adoption of load response, and how they are enabling increased energy efficiency and overall sustainability efforts:
Real-time data – The energy consumption guessing game (in which a power bill arrives weeks after the energy is actually used) is no longer necessary. Real-time access to kW load data allows facility managers to leverage spot market pricing opportunities as well as monitor and react via automation technology. Imagine having an instant view of the correlation between outside temperature and energy consumption – new dashboard functionalities provide this monitoring capability.
Dynamic solutions from providers allow facility managers to see real-time prices and current power usage across multiple zones or facilities, serving to increase transparency and control. In some areas where prices are available, a “dashboard” can display the day-ahead price, thereby allowing managers to map the next day’s strategy (for example, pre-cooling) ahead of time.
Load Response Incentives – Peak load management is critical for the stability of the energy grid and use of automation increases reliability and provides better risk mitigation with these responsive energy solutions.
Utilities in New York and California offer incentives to participants to develop load curtailment strategies as well as installation of enabling automation and controls subject to their participation in load response programs. Attractive financial incentives from $200 to $300/kW of curtailed kW can be available to eligible participants.
Automation – The ability to remotely and automatically control a single (or multiple) facility’s power use has completely changed the load response playing field. The addition of this element means that instant, real-time actions can be made for (both anticipated or unexpected) load response events while continuous monitoring during all other times provides a critical tool in the energy management arsenal for today’s facility managers.
This advancement has changed power usage strategies in a range of industries, now having the flexibility to automate and then select from various pre-engineered strategies.
For example, hotel ballrooms would be potential zones for load curtailment, unless a facility is hosting a wedding in a particular ballroom, during which time that specific zone would be off-limits for adjustments.
This type of setting can be automated as facility managers are able to choose which assets to deploy or avoid, ultimately enabling the facilities manager to reduce energy costs without compromising the critical mission of providing a safe, comfortable, and secure environment to the tenant or its guests. Beyond helping to avoid a potential grid emergency, automated capabilities help to promote sustainability efforts and foster overall energy efficiency and awareness.
Apps – Combining real-time data and load response automation with mobile computing applications gives operations departments more control than ever. Facility managers are often juggling multiple locations that can be tens or even hundreds of miles apart.
This can present difficulties in addressing immediate on-site power issues. Now, mobile applications (commonly referred to as “apps”) are available to bring dynamic energy management directly into the hands of busy, traveling facility managers. For example, Constellation Energy’s VirtuWatt is accompanied by an iPhone app that serves as an ideal mobile energy budget protection system, enabling instant control in response to various grid conditions or market signals.
Alliances – Some load response providers have created unique alliances with generation and transmission entities to provide a consortium of electric distribution cooperatives with direct, custom benefits of load response. Such alliances enable access to all of the benefits of demand response, including the real-time data, automation, and apps, directly through utility providers, giving businesses another route to energy efficiency management.
These alliances will help provide cost-effective load response solutions which are integrated with channel partners’ energy optimization solutions, and further minimize the incremental investments for adoption or adaptation of these solutions.
Savings – The bottom line is that most load response participants choose to participate because of the savings. And in fact, the economic benefits for participating in load response programs are generally increasing as energy becomes more valuable and market volatility increases.
For facilities with the ability to curtail load, this is an opportunity to take a closer look at how the primary driver can serve as a launch pad for greater control in the form of real-time monitoring, automation and mobile access to energy use.
When combined, the factors above create a powerful – and easily implemented – strategy for engaging in load response. The load response landscape is rapidly evolving into “dynamic energy management” through the combination of technology, automated monitoring and control, mobile access and innovative ways for participation. For the cost-conscious energy manager, it is fast becoming a necessity to develop a comprehensive energy management strategy in order to effectively manage overall energy costs.
Energy markets have become more volatile and more complex, and there is no sign that this dynamic will change anytime soon. Fortunately, there are tools to help. Strategic load curtailment is fast becoming a next-generation strategy for facility managers as they look to navigate our uncertain energy future.