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Demand Response: An Overview of Enabling Technologies

Oak Ridge National Laboratory engineers say residential and commercial customers must bear the true price of power, through new technologies, for electric competition to work.
Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 2001

data applications. Many of these applications are price sensitive. Price and metering communications may be an ideal fit in the not-too-distant future.

Ninety-five million people in the US use mobile phones, resulting in wide (though not total) geographic coverage and volume-based cost reductions. Competing wireless networks employ different technologies for transmitting signals. Telecommunications companies are now working on third-generation wireless networks that could deliver data to and from mobile devices at up to 2 Mbps. 4 The Wireless Application Network allows cell phones to talk to the World Wide Web. The wireless carrier operates the server making the transition from the cell phone to the Internet. This is certainly greater data transmission than responsive loads require. Since the wireless carrier provides the server connection the infrastructure requirements for the energy service provider are greatly reduced. The problem of monopoly service provision is also eliminated since the wireless carrier can route each individual communication to any selected energy service provider without the delay of telephone system dialing.

Standards for wireless network components are advancing with the adoption of IEEE 802.11b last year. The cost of wireless network components has started to fall, also contributing to growth in wireless networks. 5

  • Bluetooth, wireless LAN, and home RF short-range wireless technologies -Several currently available, wireless communications technologies (e.g., see www.xircom.com) may be useful for interconnecting the various metering, load, control, and communications devices that a price-responsive customer needs such as the hot water heater, air conditioner, and pool pump. The advantage to this type of technology is that it, (1) avoids the cost of wiring these devices together, (2) provides a universal communications interface between various types of devices and various manufacturers devices, and (3) automatically reconfigures the communications network whenever a new device is added. This new device may include a computer, printer, etc. in the computing environment or a meter and/or load controller in the case we are contemplating here. Another interesting local wireless communications and control technology with the advantage of high commercial volume and low price is the X10 series of products that allow a PC to control various appliances (X10 Wireless Technologies Inc.). This is not a robust, industrial-grade technology but it does perform required local communications and control tasks. The X10 system communicates through the immediate existing power line to individually control up to 256 devices. This system gives small electricity customers the functionality to allow load control based on the price of power if such data are available to the PC. Prices range from $10 to $40 per device.

Load control management -Telephones, cellular phones, and radio communications each provide their own advantages for communications and load control. Of particular interest are communications and control systems that have arrived on the market.

  • Analysis features -Many of the communications providers have designed into their systems the capability to provide meter data to customers for their analysis. Any number of graphical formats are available. Some provide the ability to directly compare costs that would result from various tariffs. Many allow the customer to download meter data into a convenient