Do "Enabling Technologies" Affect Customer Performance in Price-Responsive Load Programs?
Price-responsive load (PRL) programs vary significantly in overall design, the complexity of relationships between program administrators, load aggregators, and customers, and the availability of "enabling technologies." Enabling technologies include such features as web-based power system and price monitoring, control and dispatch of curtailable loads, communications and information systems links to program participants, availability of interval metering data to customers in near real time, and building/facility/end-use automation and management capabilities. Two state agencies — NYSERDA in New York and the CEC in California — have been conspicuous leaders in the demonstration of demand response (DR) programs utilizing enabling technologies. In partnership with key stakeholders in these two states (e.g., grid operator, state energy agencies, and program administrators), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) surveyed 56 customers who worked with five contractors participating in CEC or NYSERDA-sponsored DR programs. We combined market research and actual load curtailment data when available (i.e., New York) or customer load reduction targets in order to explore the relative importance of contractor's program design features, sophistication of control strategies, and reliance on enabling technologies in predicting customer's ability to deliver load reductions in DR programs targeted to large commercial/industrial customers.
We found preliminary evidence that DR enabling technology has a positive effect on load curtailment potential. Many customers indicated that web-based energy information tools were useful for facilitating demand response (e.g., assessing actual performance compared to load reduction contract commitments), that multiple notification channels facilitated timely response, and that support for and use of backup generation allowed customers to achieve significant and predictable load curtailments. We also found that 60-70% of the customers relied on manual approaches to implementing load reductions/curtailments, rather than automated load control response. The long-term sustainability of customer load curtailments would be significantly enhanced by automated load response capabilities, such as optimizing EMCS systems to respond to day-ahead energy market prices or load curtailments in response to system emergencies.