FERC seeks demand response standards

Monday, April 23, 2012

Demand response, an innovative strategy to ensuring the integrity of electric grids, is growing in popularity, prompting federal regulators to consider standardizing how demand response performance is measured.

Managing an electric grid entails ensuring a constant balance between electric generation and customer demand for electricity.  As customer demand rises, grid operators have traditionally called on more and more generating units.  In most markets, grid operators dispatch the lowest-cost units first to keep overall costs down.  As a result, generating units needed to meet peak demand tend to be more expensive than baseload generation.  Many peaking units also emit more pollutants per unit of energy than baseload units.

In a demand response program, customers can volunteer to be available to reduce their load during times of peak demand.  When done right, this reduction in customer demand can play much the same role as dispatching additional generation, but at a lower cost in dollars and environmental impacts.  Energy efficiency resources can also play a similar role.

The U.S. Congress and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have both recognized that demand response can be a decentralized, crowd-sourced alternative to peaking power plants.  Utilities and regional transmission organizations across the nation are implementing demand response programs.

As demand response grows in importance, the question of how to measure a customer's performance is important.  Different utilities and regions have adopted varying standards for how performance is measured.  In an attempt to standardize the measurement and verification of demand response and energy efficiency resources participating in organized wholesale electricity markets, the FERC has proposed to amend its regulations to incorporate by reference the demand-side management and energy efficiency business practice standards of the North American Energy Standards Board.  NAESB describes itself as "an industry forum for the development and promotion of standards which will lead to a seamless marketplace for wholesale and retail natural gas and electricity, as recognized by its customers, business community, participants, and regulatory entities."

In its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (29-page PDF), Standards for Business Practices and Communication Protocols for Public Utilities, 139 FERC ¶ 61,041, FERC states its hope that "[a]doption of these standards is intended to improve the methods and procedures used to accurately measure demand response and energy efficiency resource performance" and that their adoption should help regional grid operators "properly credit demand response and energy efficiency resources for their services".

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