The electric grid and the people who operate it are facing changes at a pace unprecedented since the days when Tesla and Edison fought over whether AC or DC electricity would be distributed. One thing is certain: renewable energy from wind and solar is here to stay as energy resources for the grid. Not only are these resources cost-competitive at scale with conventional power plants, but more importantly: customers, at least on the West Coast, overwhelmingly support renewable energy as a source they expect utilities to provide.
A grid very rich in renewable energy from wind and solar resources will have large amounts of excess energy when the sun shines or the wind blows. While we will need electric storage to support the hours when neither wind nor solar energy is available, behavior-driven energy shifting to periods of excess renewables is a zero-cost measure, and appliances with built-in capability is a near-zero-cost measure in the end-state. When readers think “storage,” they might think electric batteries; however, this report addresses the concept of hot water heaters as “storage” and the ability to shift electric usage as occurs with battery storage.
This demonstration pilot was conceived to create a market transformation plan that would put the Pacific Northwest on a path to make hot water heating load shifting simple for customers without affecting their lifestyle. The key to customer simplicity and resource cost-effectiveness, as identified by a broad consortium of stakeholders, is widespread adoption of a standardized approach to communicating to loads that have flexibility about when they use electricity. This standard needs a marketing name, but the technical specification is called ANSI/CTA-2045. This communication interface is comparable in concept to a USB socket on a camera, TV, or computer, but this socket is specifically designed for appliances. The analogy of a marketing name to a technical standard is the well-known marketing name of Wi-Fi vs. its technical standard, IEEE-802.11.