Heat Wave And Demand-Response Automation

Times of extreme temperature swings, like the summer of 2011’s U.S. heat wave, underscore the push by utilities to have more industrial power users become part of their demand-response programs. To do so, however, requires the right deployment of automation technology.

As record heat grips the nation, it seems like a great time to revisit the idea of demand-response and how it affects what you pay for energy as well as your automation strategy.

First, let’s dispense with the basics. The idea behind demand-response programs is that utilities will pay businesses for reducing their energy consumption during times of peak demand. This is critical for two reasons: 1) industrial companies are the biggest single source users of power, and 2) demand surges by consumers in homes and office buildings can lead to brownouts, negatively impacting both business and consumers for substantial periods of time. 

To make these demand-response programs appealing to industry, the payouts to companies participating in these programs are significant. For example, some programs currently offer payments of several hundred dollars per megawatt hour in exchange for willingness to reduce power use at specified times. In some cases, participants still get the payout even if they were not actually required to function with reduced power availability as required by the plan.

Of course, the ability to take part in such plans requires a sophisticated level of knowledge about your facility’s energy use and requirements. That’s where automation comes in.

At a base level, sensor-monitoring systems are required to keep track of the real-time energy data from the variety of systems, equipment and devices located throughout the facility. As that data is processed in relation to the parameters of the demand-response program or requests from the utility, automated control systems in place need to be able to quickly respond to curb power demand.

Despite the need for advanced automation systems to take part in these plans, the good news for manufacturers is twofold. First, most of the major automation and control companies have technologies and partner alliances in place to outfit manufacturers of all types with the necessary means to take part in these programs. Second, given the payback offered by utilities, equipping your company to take part in these demand-response programs has a very quick ROI.

Follow this link to read about how one company expects to generate between $75,000 and $115,000 in revenue annually from participation in its local demand-response program. 

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