By B. Kevin Folsom, CEP
Published in the October 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Q I am interested in participating in the demand response program with my local utility. I have done a lot of research and see the benefits but would like your input. Or, if you know of anyone who already is participating what are their challenges, and is it working for them or not?
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
A I have been part of the Texas ERCOT EILS (Now called ERS) demand response program since 2008. We literally have our campus electricity cut off within 10 minutes of being notified of a statewide emergency. Typically, the program seeks customers who have a minimum average 1,000 kilowatt demand, but there are ways they work with smaller customers through aggregation, which is what we do.
Participants are required to test their systems once per year. If we are called to curtail energy use, that serves as the test for the year. We have found three major benefits:
- You can test all your power outage systems once per year (e.g., emergency lighting, battery backups, communication protocols, procedures, etc.)
- If rolling blackouts are imminent, you’ll receive advance notice before anyone else so you can protect your systems by turning them off until all is cleared. Rolling blackouts can destroy costly systems.
- Financial rewards. You get paid for your power outage when others don’t during a rolling blackout.
Do not engage a system like this without having your leadership on board first! This is a very disruptive commitment at least once per year (while you probably already encounter power outages, this is looked at very differently).
I would advise finding an energy procurement consultant to help you competitively bid your campus out to participate. There should be several companies that want your campus on board.