Demand response advances, opening new opportunities

Utilities have long understood that they can use the electric system efficiently and economically by reducing demand at certain times. Great River Energy is a leader in this discipline, known as demand response.

“Through the efforts of our retail member distribution cooperatives we have tens of thousands of members that allow Great River Energy to take over control of their air conditioners, water heaters or – in the case of farms – irrigation systems for short periods of time occasionally throughout the year,” said Great River Energy Member Services and Marketing Director Gary Connett. “By controlling these electric loads we are able to reduce the amount of electricity we must purchase during periods of high energy prices, which saves everyone money.”

This is particularly valuable for cooperatives like Great River Energy and its member cooperatives.

“We provide electricity at cost. Every penny we save is one we don’t bill our membership,” added Connett.

New system, new possibilities

Great River Energy has established its demand response practice using a system that sends one-way signals to cycle certain devices off and on.

As the technology nears the end of its useful life, Great River Energy has installed a modern demand response management system. The new system will help Great River Energy better adapt to changes in technology, consumer expectations and market forces. It will allow more precise control and allow for interconnection with growing load control technologies, such as smart thermostats and wifi-enabled devices (i.e., the “internet of things”).

With two-way communication, Great River Energy will be able to accurately monitor the effectiveness of its demand response and analyze data to continually improve its programs.

“Ultimately we want to extend our capabilities beyond traditional load control, and be more responsive to growing industry trends in load management, home energy systems and electric vehicles,” said Great River Energy Demand Response and Technology Lead John Reinhart.

A demand response management system is a foundational technology of Great River Energy’s “future grid” efforts. By adding additional energy and data management, Great River Energy will provide more reliable and affordable electric service.

Great River Energy will soon begin transitioning existing demand response programs to the new system. The system will then be made available to Great River Energy’s member cooperatives, which can benefit from the system’s additional capabilities.