Utilities have operated demand response (DR) programs for commercial and industrial (C&I) customers for decades, going back to interruptible rates that disconnected customers from the grid during emergencies in exchange for lower rates. About 10 to 15 years ago, DR started participating in wholesale electricity markets on even ground with generators, and that became the main DR opportunity for customers. In the past five years, wholesale market rules have tightened and become more complex, capacity prices have fluctuated, and markets have matured, leading to flattening growth in many markets. At the same time, more utilities have begun DR programs for a variety of reasons, creating new revenue potential for customers. Public utility commissions and state mandates for grid reliability rate base-cost avoidance on infrastructure improvements, pressure around renewables, and sustainability with commercial and industrial customers.
During this webinar, Jessie Mehrhoff, research analyst at Navigant Research; Paul Wassink, senior engineer at National Grid; Martha Grover, energy efficiency manager in the Office of Planning and Community Development for the City of Melrose; and JP Harper, vice president at CPower, explained the history and current status of utility DR programs and what the implications and opportunities are for C&I customers. The webinar also provided case studies of successful utility DR program participation with CPower and National Grid.