This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 30, 2006

Demand Response Helps Utilities Ride Through Record Heat

High temperatures in early August resulted in record power demands across the country, but many utilities managed to avoid widespread power outages by using their demand response networks. Customers participating in these demand response networks offer to reduce their usage during peak demand and are paid the market value of the electricity saved. This allows utilities to avoid using the most expensive generators, reducing demand to meet the power grid needs instead of increasing the electricity supply. Demand response benefits all customers by lowering long-term electricity prices. PJM Interconnection, which operates the power grid in a 13-state region from Illinois to Delaware, estimates that demand response resulted in price reductions of $650 million in energy payments for one week in early August. See the PJM press release (PDF 130 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

Manual demand response systems have been around for years, but new technologies are allowing these systems to be automated. Companies that manage the demand response networks, including EnerNOC, Itron, and Comverge, monitor power grids and notify participating customers when demand response events are anticipated, in various ways. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is providing its large business customers with an "Energy Orb" that glows, pulsates, and changes color to show when conservation is needed. The orb can be placed in a lobby or facility manager's office, and has an electronic chip that receives a signal every 15 minutes. When an event is declared, power use is automatically curtailed and widespread rolling blackouts are avoided. See the press releases from Itron, EnerNOC, Comverge, and PG&E.