Residential Demand Response Programs Need Better Device Control

Utility resident demand response (DR) programs have evolved in many ways over the years. Initially focused on Direct Load Controllers (DLC) that provide on/off switches and one-way communication, demand response programs have begun to increase in sophistication. Supported by the Internet-of-Things, utilities are rapidly discovering the operational and customer engagement benefits of bringing smart devices into DR platforms.

The Device Control Needed for Demand Flexibility Programs

What continues to lag, however, is the control for these programs. Smart devices have gotten smarter, but the utility platforms supporting them have not. Demand flexibility programs and distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS) solutions tend to operate control programs that link to smart devices using basic, aggregate control. In most cases, basic demand response programs are linking to devices (like thermostats, water heaters, EV chargers, and home battery systems) that have a ton of flexibility but aren’t using any of them. Call one DR event and everyone gets the same command. It’s the very definition of a one-size-fits-all approach.

Why does this matter? Because treating customers in aggregate risks the success of all demand response programs. When you call events that are not tailored to your customers, you risk disrupting their lives. Nothing kills a customer’s affinity for their utility like a cold shower in the morning or a summer dinner party with no A/C.

These issues can be remedied by using a real-time controller. By running this type of system in the cloud, a demand response platform can provide the ability to control each device in a demand response program individually and with real-time data. Each customer’s usage patterns are understood and considered when calling demand flexibility events, including DR events. This not only reduces the risks of disruption already discussed but allows demand response/DERMS initiatives to extract greater value for their customers.

Some examples of real-time control include:

  • Staggering overnight EV charging to ensure that grid impacts are minimized while keeping customer vehicles charged
  • Pre-heating water heaters using customer preferences as well as load-reduction requirements
  • Setting thermostats based on individual settings as well as historical event opt-out patterns

Demand Response Programs Device Control Conclusion

What value can real-time control add? It can be the difference between successful demand flexibility programs and one that fails. It can give utilities infinite options to balance the grid, drive new revenue sources and keep customers engaged. It can tailor how much load is shed by each device based on the behavior of your customers. And most importantly, it maximizes the value inherent within smart devices for both the utility and the customer.

Do you have the right demand response solution?

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About The Author
Jeff Quigley blog author

Jeff is the VP of Sales for Virtual Peaker. He has spent his entire career in energy and data analytics where he has led teams working with utilities, government agencies, oil and gas companies, and financial institutions to help drive growth strategy and manage energy transition. He has worked with a team of analysts in developing an integrated resource plan (IRP) for a major U.S. vertically integrated utility, with a focus on load forecasting, locational marginal pricing (LMP) prediction, and long-term grid reliability. He has also managed the development of marketing and growth strategy for one of the four largest global oil and gas firms with a focus on the long-term viability of the Asian market-entry strategy.

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