Summary:

Power grids that emerged unscathed from the recent heat wave in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have demand response companies to thank, and proved it’s a good idea to get the demand response word out when the electrical grid starts feeling the strain.

In the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states recently, a withering heat wave — one that sometimes crossed the 100 degree mark — tested not only the limits of the regions’ inhabitants, but that of the local power grids too. Some grids fared better than others, and those that emerged unscathed have demand response companies to thank. Here’s why it’s a good idea to get the demand response word out when the electrical grid starts feeling the strain.

When two power plants failed in ISO’s New England service region in late June, energy prices momentarily spiked to $1,000 per megawatt-hours. EnerNOC’s DemandSMART network sprang into action and ISO was able to meet demand and avoid a hit to its bottom line by reducing demand by 380 megawatts. According to EnerNOC, this was accomplished largely because of its network operations center, which remotely enlisted over 1,000 assets during a two and half hour dispatch and managed 500,000 data transactions to manage the situation in real-time.

similar scene played out at PJM last week, a wholesale electricity market operator that has demand-response contracts with EnerNOC, CPower and Comverge. As temperatures soared across its Mid-Atlantic service area — sometimes crossing the 100 degree mark — it was able to reduce the load by 2,500 megawatts for three hours.

EnerNOC and Comverge both put out press releases. And you know what? It was a smart move to shine the spotlight on demand response while public attention (at least here in the Eastern U.S.) was consumed by the heat wave. More importantly, it provided a great opportunity to tout the technology’s money-saving benefits to utilities.

In addressing ISO’s recent demand response event, EnerNOC’s CEO, Tim Healy said in a statement, “EnerNOC delivered the equivalent capacity of roughly three peaking power plants.” What utility would turn down the option to not build expensive power plants? Also, while the sheer number of megawatts saved by ISO and PJM is impressive, more so are the savings from avoiding having to fork over top dollar for electricity in the wholesale market when demand explodes.

Read more in “Demand Response’s Moment in the (Hot) Sun” at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image courtesy of flickr user miki.

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