As the past month goes on record as the hottest July in 70 years, Itron is playing a vital role in helping utilities achieve significant reductions in end-user demand to avoid rolling blackouts and minimize energy price increases.
From California to the New England region, electricity power grids were locked in high gear last month as sustained temperatures of 100 degrees or more pushed utilities' power supplies to the limit. However, instead of relying on costly and often contentious new power plants to meet the 100 or so hours a year where energy demand is highest, says Phillip Mezey, senior vice president for Itron software solutions, some utilities are turning to their customers to reduce energy usage during these peak hours.
Using Itron's web-based Curtailment Manager software, utilities offer an online bidding site where their commercial and industrial customers can commit energy usage reductions and in turn get paid for their participation.
In California, utilities issued demand response events for 13 days in July alone and some of the hottest weather could still be ahead. On July 24, the system peak reached nearly 50,000 MW; last year's system peak was only 46,000 MW. An emergency event declared in southern California, resulted in more than a 400 MW reduction -- enough to power 400,000 homes. By using Itron's Curtailment Manager technology, utilities were able to respond to high demand conditions and help prevent widespread rolling blackouts.
Also in July a New York-based utility ran eight days of curtailment events and a Midwest utility ran four days of events. Collectively, utilities using Itron's Curtailment Manager solution achieved more than 700 MW of peak demand reduction.
Limited manually operated demand response programs have been in place for more than 20 years. Using Itron's automated software tools, utilities are now getting hundreds of customers to participate and can offer a greater variety of demand response program options.
"Everyone benefits from demand response technology," said Mezey. "The utility can avert rolling black-outs and defer building new power plants. The C&I customers get paid for participation and the resulting energy demand reduction helps keep prices down for all customers."