I’ve just returned from presenting at the Demand Response World Forum where many utilities, energy services companies and industry experts gathered to discuss the ‘What’s Next’ for demand response. In my presentation, I offered that demand response is set to play a larger role beyond being used by utilities and grid operators to curb back the demand for electricity during hot summer days. By leveraging two-way connectivity to homes and business provided by the Silver Spring Smart Grid platform utilities can unlock the full year-round potential of demand response through real-time telemetry data.
We’ve spoken a great deal about the IoT for things like smart street lights and smart cities. As with other technological evolutions in history, the IoT is beginning to diverge in to subcategories, which includes categories like wearables, enterprise IoT, critical infrastructure and connected in-home devices.
Firstly, let’s clarify the definition of connected in-home devices. We aren’t talking about connected toothbrushes or coffee machines, but rather enabling connectivity to the critical devices that drive the demand for the energy industry. Utilities have been doing IoT for years, namely for the smart grid. Without two-way communication there is no IoT.
As such, smart grid two-way communication has enabled a whole new approach to demand response programs. Historically, utilities have implemented vertically integrated, single-vendor DR solutions based on one-way communications. These solutions limited device options for the utility and customers. Likewise, operators had no visibility into participation patterns or the specific loads shed, making prediction of future events difficult. Nor can operators tell if an individual device is working, which can lead to lower-than-expected load shed, unnecessary truck rolls, and other negative impacts.
Utilities such as Oklahoma Gas & Electric are already leveraging their smart grid networks to extend DR to a broad customer base, after studies showed customers with a smart thermostat and a variable peak price rate plan achieved an average 33 percent demand reduction during the on-peak period.
In contrast, a smart grid network provides highly reliable two-way communications, which eliminates the need for separate DR communications infrastructure. Utilities benefit from a cost-effective way to expand load control programs to all customers with no impact on regulatory approvals for existing programs. More importantly, two-way communications enables deep real-time insights as to the performance of DR programs which can be used to surgically target events for specific grid conditions, aggregate residential resources and bid into energy markets, increasing reliability and predictability.
Implementing a modern, data driven DR program provides customers with an opportunity to save money while reducing their environmental impact. For example, customers can track their energy savings in real-time during a DR event. The utility can leverage advanced analytical capabilities such as load disaggregation to determine whether a customer is taking the necessary actions to maximize their potential savings. Utilities can interact with these customers in real-time, providing targeted recommendations to help customers reduce their load further and increase their financial returns from participating in these programs.
Whether it’s money saved or emissions reduced, these personalized interactions will provide the customer with a vastly more compelling user experience. This will help utilities transform their customer relationships to become trusted energy advisors to their customers. Ultimately this will drive value to the customer while improving the utility’s core function, operating a low-cost, reliable, and resilient electricity system.
On Tuesday, October 20, we’ve been invited by Navigant to discuss IoT in-home devices for their upcoming webinar “Internet of Things; How Connected Things Will Change the Home of the Future.” You can register here. We hope you can join us for the webinar.
Matt Smith is the Senior Director for Utility Solutions for Silver Spring Networks