Making Demand-Response Work

  April 28, 2011

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, making demand response work.

To successfully participate in what they hoped would be a lucrative demand-response program, facility managers with Allegheny County, Pa., understood their commitment went far beyond simply shedding energy load.

A successful program meant Philip La May, the county's deputy director of public works, and Jeaneen Zappa, its sustainability manager, would have to overcome resistance. To do so, La May and Zappa had to shift the culture of the county.

"Conservation includes behavior change and taking advantage of every opportunity we have to be part of a larger solution for the community," Zappa says. "We have an obligation to set the right example. It behooves us as a government in particular to say, 'This is how we can do this.' And, of course, there is a financial benefit to it."

La May is working to ensure the resistance does not deter his staff from contributing to the county's sustainability efforts.

"It's moving away from what we're used to toward what we hope to be the new norm," he says. "It means our employees learn about new equipment, new materials and new processes. In that process, we end up, hopefully, training a new normal."

To realize the energy and cost savings demand-response programs are designed to generate, employees in all departments had to get on board. The county conducted its first test demand-response event in August 2010. It resulted in about $300,000 for the county — a combination of the payment for participating in the program and the utility cost savings from the reduction in kilowatt-hours (kWh).

For buildings participating in the program, the county and its energy-consulting load aggregator, Comverge, identified critical staff responsible for ensuring occupants understand the way operations will change during the demand-response event, as well as the role they play in helping shed load.

"It took a lot of coordination to make sure that stationary engineers and electricians had input as to the best way to shut things down and how to approach the building occupants," La May says. "Short of doing our dry run, we tried to plan it out as best as possible, making sure we have the staff available throughout facilities to be accessible to building occupants with questions about what they need to do."


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