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C&I Customers Get Smart

Technology creates new opportunities for demand- side management

Fortnightly Magazine - January 2011

For example, in a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the “Prius effect,” 6 online web management tools can enable customers to monitor their performance during DR dispatches, as well as to compare their usage on a monthly basis to uncover operational issues. Customers might use the software to avoid setting a new monthly peak demand, or to monitor weekend and nighttime energy usage to reduce unwanted phantom loads. If a customer is utilizing the software in two similar buildings, it can quickly determine if those facilities have significantly different energy usage, and take steps to identify and fix anomalies in the inefficient building. In addition, some customers on dynamic pricing tariffs will be able to use the applications to assist them in reducing load in response to high prices.

Notably, utilities might choose to sponsor customer access to online energy management tools as a marketing strategy. The software platform can be used to advertise the utility’s energy efficiency programs and drive increased adoption.

Fully integrated demand-side management : A C&I smart grid platform can drive both the control and management of temporary reductions in energy demand (DR) and the identification and monitoring of sustained energy reductions (EE). Leveraging a common technology platform for integrated demand-side management strategies can greatly reduce marketing and implementation costs. In addition, a utility might be able to fund measures that deliver both EE and DR at a level greater than it would be able to fund a measure that delivers only EE or only DR.

Monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) is a type of EE measure which relies on the presence of advanced meters and smart building technologies. The same technologies used to implement MBCx can be deployed to enable automated DR, thus generating both kWh and kW savings. MBCx generally refers to the real-time, continuous monitoring of thousands of points in a building to detect and correct anomalous consumption and ensure persistent savings. MBCx requires real-time visibility not only to meter-level consumption data, but more granular building data. Monitoring and control technology is installed to capture real-time energy usage data from interval meters, as well as to interface with building or energy management systems (BMS/EMS). This data is used to create benchmarks and identify efficiency measures that enhance building operations on a continuous basis. A customer can program its DR load curtailment plan directly into its BMS to automate responses to utility dispatch signals.

A Vision for the Future

There’s tremendous potential for utilities to create and communicate a smart grid value proposition for their C&I customers. However, for this segment to get the most out of utility smart grid investments, C&I customers must be allowed full access to their meter data, in real time. For example, in California, the Public Utilities Commission recently ruled that “it is reasonable to require” the utilities to provide customers “with access to the customer’s usage information on a near real-time basis by the end of 2011 should the customer desire that information.” 7 Such real-time access to data will drive the development of sophisticated and useful energy management applications.