The summer of 2011 may well prove to be the watershed year for demand response programs. Public attention has been focused on solar, wind and other renewable resources as partial alternatives to legacy supply solutions. However, the real challenge is meeting peak demand, particularly summer air conditioner loads during heat waves. That’s where demand response can outshine solar and blow wind away. It’s estimated by the government's Energy Information Agency that demand response can cut peak demand by 15 percent.
There are at least two reasons why this summer will go down as a turning point in demand response history: First, in March, FERC ordered that demand response providers receive the same market price for “negawatts” that generators receive for real power. (see FERC 745: The Genie’s Out of the Bottle).
Then came the Great American Heat Wave of 2011. Records were set, not only in degrees, but also in the peak demand savings through coordinated demand response - about 2400 MW in the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic areas and over 1200 MW from a group of 12 other states. All in all, it’s estimated that about 35,600 MW of demand response were available throughout North America (see NERC 2011 Summer Reliability Assessment). That’s a lot of gas turbine peakers!
The heat was on and it all came together like an episode of The A Team. Even the conservative North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) was pleased. “To my knowledge, everything performed as expected. I think we all agree it was significant,” said John Moura, NERC’s manager of reliability assessments.
Proof of concept, a defined path to funding – all in all a memorable summer for demand response advocates and providers.