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​Benchmarking Reports

BPA delves into nation’s best DR/DER programs and practices

In many areas of the country, electric utilities have not had as robust and ready a supply of flexible capacity as the Federal Columbia River Power System has historically provided to the Northwest. Instead, utilities in other regions developed expertise in demand-response tools and strategies as a long-term source of capacity, making DR a well-established component of their business.

With the Northwest’s need for capacity – the maximum demand for electricity that the system can fulfill at a given time – expected to outstrip supply in peak summer periods starting in 2020, BPA is seeking cost-effective ways to provide additional capacity. To that end, Bonneville has collaborated with utility customers and others on DR demonstrations in residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural settings around the four states in its service area.

In a rapidly evolving technical sphere that covers everything from cutting-edge battery storage to remotely responsive water heaters, and from irrigation pumps to backup generators at hospitals, there’s no one-size-fits-all road map to follow.

To help the region make the best DR decisions and investments, in 2015 Bonneville began researching, documenting and sharing successful models of demand-response and other distributed energy resources (DER) programs around the country. Over the years of benchmarking BPA has sent teams of DER experts across the US. The results of interviews and research are published yearly and provide insights into the best practices for implementing DER.

Distributed energy resources are smaller sources of energy or capacity that can be aggregated to meet larger needs. They are often located at customer sites and called “demand-side” for their physical proximity to electricity demand. DER is also an umbrella term for tools to shave or reduce peak load through demand response and distributed generation, including energy storage.

By definition, distributed energy resources are newer, smaller, more technologically diverse and geographically scattered than traditional power plants. Their emergence and potential is propelling a fresh effort among regional utilities and their customers to work together to avoid pitfalls, find synergies and efficiencies, and clarify business cases.

The objectives of BPA’s benchmarking are to:

  • Understand the market landscape.
  • Leverage existing work.
  • Ensure ratepayer value.
  • Share findings within BPA, with customer utilities and external stakeholders.

Serving needs of utility customers

After identifying topics and themes that Northwest utility customers would find most relevant and useful, BPA conducts benchmarking interviews with about a dozen utilities and other entities across the U.S. each year to gather information. The work documents specific DR/DER resources and how utilities are integrating them, the programs available to customers, enabling tools and technologies, and future directions.

For example, 2017 benchmarking described programs ranging from summertime non-wires DR to relieve grid congestion at Central Hudson Gas & Electric in New York, to residential air-conditioning cycling providing up to 295 megawatts of DR at Southern California Edison, to the quarter-million Texas thermostats in residential DR programs at Austin Energy and CPS Energy in San Antonio.

After the report is published and distributed, BPA discusses the opportunities and lessons with customers and regional partners throughout the year.

2018 BPA DER Benchmarking Report
2017 BPA DER Benchmarking Report
2016 BPA DER Benchmarking Report