NewEnergyNews: ORIGINAL REPORTING: Demand Response Reborn In The California Blackouts

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    Wednesday, December 23, 2020

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: Demand Response Reborn In The California Blackouts

    Demand response failed California 20 years ago; the state’s recent outages may have redeemed it; The West's recent heatwaves put California power users in the dark but showed how flexible demand response, including distributed storage, can keep the lights on.

    Herman K. Trabish, Sept. 28, 2020 (Utility Dive)

    Editor’s note: Follow-up studies of the blackout confirm the primary cause was natural gas plants tripping offline and one factor preventing worse impacts was demand response. California regulators and policymakers have accelerated work toward reliability solutions with Old and New Energy.

    California's recent blackouts revealed serious shortcomings in the state's energy transition planning, but may also have prompted a reconsideration of Demand response (DR), which failed California in its 2000-2001 energy crisis and left regulators inclined to call on it only in the most dire energy shortages. The recent heatwave-induced rolling blackouts had billion-dollar-plus costs and the performance of a new kind of DR got policymakers' attention.

    Preliminary data from a CPUC analysis of the blackouts suggests the still-small supply of flexible DR "contributed quite a bit to grid support," said CPUC Deputy Executive Director for Energy and Climate Policy Edward Randolph. "This is the first event in many years that required sustained demand response. The analysis of its performance will inform future decision-making."

    "If California had already seriously embraced flexible demand response, it would not have even come close to blackouts," said Gridworks Executive Director and former California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Energy Advisor Matthew Tisdale. If the CPUC analysis confirms flexible DR's potential, the resource will face new and bigger challenges because its value will change with increased use, according to Randolph, DR advocates, and a July 2020 study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). That will add to the regulatory controversies about its value that have obstructed DR growth for years.

    The need for flexible DR to manage peak demand is likely to grow as more of the economy is electrified and the need for and value of being able to shift and shed load becomes greater. California's rising penetration of distributed energy resources (DERs) makes it a leader in discovering the value their flexibility can bring to power systems across the country.

    Buildings use 75% of U.S. electricity and in some regions up to 80% of peak demand generation, LBNL reported. Making buildings more energy efficient and managing their energy usage with flexible distributed energy resources (DERs) can limit blackouts without compromising reliability, according to LBNL. A building's load profile can be adjusted by shedding, shifting or modulating load and supplying generation.

    Nearly 200 GW of flexibility from both the traditional DR used for decades and new DER-driven flexible DR could reduce the projected 2030 U.S. peak load 20%, avoiding over $16 billion annually in costs, a 2019 Brattle Group study concluded. "Modernizing conventional programs" can deliver 40% of that potential, but the other 60% is in "emerging" building automation technologies, Brattle Principal and study co-author Ryan Hledik added… click here for more

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