What it is
Demand response (DR) refers to the tools and strategies used by utilities to balance out peaks and valleys in energy consumption. Because many consumers follow similar patterns—for example, waking up, turning on lights and making coffee before work—the electrical grid can be strained during high-use periods, which are referred to as “peak demand” or “peak load.” An over-strained electrical grid can result in potential power outages or require utilities to make market purchases for energy to meet their needs.
Distributed energy resources (DERs) are small, modular energy-generation and storage technologies that provide electric capacity—or energy—where you need it. DER technologies include wind turbines, photovoltaics (PV), fuel cells, micro turbines, reciprocating engines, combustion turbines, cogeneration, and energy-storage systems. Initially known as localized generating assets, current technologies that reduce or fully offset consumer electricity demand such as battery storage and fuel cells are also considered to be DERs. While solar and wind power are now widely known concepts, DERs can encompass a wide range of tactics including, but not limited to, small generators, battery storage, electric cars and Internet-connected “smart” home systems. DERs are aggregated assets that can be triggered, controlled, or scheduled to alter consumption patterns when energy consumers are participating in energy-efficiency or demand-response programs.
Energy generated by DERs can be leveraged during peak demand times or absorbed when there is a surplus of renewable generation, offsetting the strain on the grid. Because new DERs are still emerging and current technology is maturing, utilities continue to explore ways to leverage both DERs and DR for consistent generation, flexibility, and impact on the grid system.
How it Works
DR and DERs can contribute to utility-load management. DR programs can encourage behavioral, process, and equipment changes to help manage when and how electricity is consumed, leveling use during times of peak demand, while some DERs can also be used to supplement grid capacity and meet demand.
What to Consider
While demand response has existed for decades, strategies and opportunities to optimize its impact in the utility industry are still developing. Understanding how these technologies can benefit BPA’s grid—and where they can boost energy-efficiency efforts—will be an important consideration in BPA’s strategy to serve its customers in the years to come.