For too many people, demand-side management (DSM) of energy resources means one thing: shedding load. That’s a limiting and outdated view of DSM.
Given the right control platform, Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) can move their power consumption up or down to support the needs of the power system. To get the benefit of that flexibility, you need to think of all DERs – even loads – as resources that can be charged up the same way you charge a battery energy storage system.
It’s easy to do. For instance, reservoirs used to maintain pressure in a drinking-water system can be filled at night to allow for load flexibility the next day. Filling the reservoir is basically charging up that resource so that the electricity used for pumping can be shed when you need the capacity. Likewise, electric water heaters or chillers can have their temperatures manipulated off-peak to deliver the load flexibility you need, and the same holds true to a lesser degree for an HVAC system.
Along with adding load “charging” to your load-shedding mindset, broaden your view of DSM to include all kinds of DERs, such as battery energy storage, combined heat and power systems and rooftop solar. When you leverage a network that includes many types of resources, you gain the benefits of a diversified portfolio of distributed energy assets.
401(k) for the grid
A networked portfolio of energy assets is similar to anybody’s 401k. You wouldn’t sink all your money into one company or even one type of company, like grocery retail chains or fast-food restaurants. Most people have a portfolio with many kinds of assets – stocks, bonds, big companies and small – as well as investments in the U.S. and abroad.
From an investment perspective, that spreads risk. From an energy management perspective, this approach opens up opportunities, and those opportunities are inherent in the power of networks.
Networks bring you:
More participation in your DSM program: The larger the network, the more flexibility you have in bringing loads or other DERs into and out of service for the good of the grid. Customers can participate via short bursts of load curtailment and define their own constraints to accommodate desired comfort levels, production schedules or other factors. That opens the DSM program doors to more customers and creates a virtuous cycle of network growth and benefit.
Fewer program drop-outs: Because a large network allows customers to avoid onerous curtailments to participate in your DSM program, they’re more likely to stick with it.
More dispatchable capacity: Through the network effect, you can aggregate your DSM program participants into a highly flexible resource that ramps in seconds and can be tuned to deliver precise amounts of power.
To learn more about the power of networks, read Enbala’s white paper on Metcalfe’s Law, which holds that a network’s effectiveness corresponds to the square of the number of nodes within it. In other words, the more DERs you control, the more value you can create. That’s even more true when those resources move up and down in power consumption or supply to provide the grid with exactly what it needs at any given time.