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PLMA Fall Conference Highlights Key Trends in the DR Industry

Brett Feldman — December 2, 2016

Power Line Test EquipmentIn early November, the Peak Load Management Alliance held its annual fall conference in Delray Beach, Florida. Aside from the election excitement surrounding the conference, some interesting sessions and trends emerged from the meeting.

The conference agenda has expanded over time as more special interest groups have formed to tackle hot topics in the industry. Community storage and thermostat groups have been meeting for the past several conferences, and this year customer engagement and retail pricing groups were added to the mix. The retail pricing group had a lot of ground to cover and had to first define the boundaries of its scope, since pricing can become a very broad topic if not properly fenced. There was an interesting dichotomy between the public power agencies, which have freedom to offer whatever rates they please, and the investor-owned utilities, which must get regulatory approval for any new rate structures.

Rate Making at the Center

The full conference got underway with an opening panel on rate making. Edison Electric Institute moderated a group including NRG Curtailment Solutions, Georgia Power, Consolidated Edison, and the Independent System Operator of New England. The panel showcased a wide range of perspectives based on varying beliefs in the power of competitive markets, the coordination between retail and wholesale markets, and whether utilities should get directly involved in customer enablement or if it should be left to market players.

Next, some utilities explained their demand response (DR)/smart grid programs for residential customers. National Grid detailed its Smart Energy Solutions pilot in Worcester, Massachusetts, which provided smart thermostats and Wi-Fi gateways to customers. Old Dominion Electric Cooperative described how it went beyond hardware to obtain more DR from customers through innovative communication methods to encourage behavioral changes based on pricing and usage information.

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on demand response management systems (DRMS) that included PECO, NV Energy, and Consumers Energy. Each of the utilities outlined their implementation experiences with different DRMS vendors and offered best practices and lessons learned to those in the audience who hadn’t yet gone through the process.

Varieties of DR

After lunch, a panel that included North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, NB Power, ecobee, Portland General Electric, and Nest covered the topic of winter DR. Winter DR has garnered interest in northern climates as well as areas where natural gas constraints are causing a lack of electricity generation (i.e., New England, PJM, and California).

After a long election night, presenters provided a smorgasbord of ideas throughout the next day. Hawaiian Electric discussed the impact of energy storage in combination with automated DR. Duke Energy outlined lessons learned from a smart thermostat program that did not get the desired benefits. CPower navigated the muddy waters of DR in California. National Grid and Weatherbug Home explained how to leverage Internet of Things devices for customer engagement.

The conference closed with a thought-provoking session with speakers from NV Energy, Skipping Stone, Navigant, Alternative Energy Systems Consulting, and Joule Assets pontificating upon the future of the DR industry. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again in Nashville in April for the next round.

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