Demand Response Has Number of Variables

  July 20, 2012

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that demand response programs have a number of variables involved.

Though the terms are often used interchangeably, voluntary load-curtailment and demand-side management are not the same as demand response. Demand response is binary. When demand surges too high, utilities request a "response" from large users, and they — the utilities — are willing to pay for that reaction. And steamy summer weather is a good time for facility managers to learn how they can best benefit from an energy grid at its limits.

Typically, demand response happens when a utility customer either curtails load or increases on-site generation to supplement utility power consumption. Demand response is really just a new and improved version of interruptible contracts, which were pretty rigid, says Richard Lubinski, president of Think Energy Management. When facilities do curtail demand upon request, utilities will pay for the capacity that is freed up by the reduction in demand.

Essentially, he says, there are two kinds of demand response; one is at the capacity or generation level, the other at the distribution level. For most facility managers, their concern will be the former.

Genuine demand response is a relatively rare event — most organizations only face genuine demand response events for 10 to 20 hours annually, says Lindsay Audin, president of Energywiz, Inc. Nevertheless, demand response is now expanding beyond power generation; natural gas and some water utilities, particularly in the desert Southwest, are also experimenting with demand-response programs.

Demand response also fits neatly in emergency planning. For owners who already own on-site generating capacity, planning for demand response can be part of a sufficiency plan, mostly because a contract with the utility helps ensure the maintenance and regular use of generation capacity — helping ensure generation potential will be available in the case of emergency or extended outage.


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