Using demand response to meet year-round energy needs

Cook County is participating in a pilot program to test and develop new ways to save energy.

The pilot project, called Combined Capacity Asset Performance Project, is a collaboration of Environmental Defense Fund , The Accelerate Group, Citizens Utility Board  and PJM Interconnection. It will show how strategically combining resources can allow demand response, a tool that pays customers to reduce electricity use in response to the grid’s needs, to compete with other sources of power in the market under new performance requirements.

Cook County Government, which represents over five million people throughout Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, is a lead participant in the project.

Cook County has pledged to evaluate up to 45 of its government buildings for their ability to participate in the capacity performance market year-round using demand response.

“I am committed to reducing Cook County Government’s Greenhouse Gas emissions by 80 percent,” Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said. “I have also made a commitment to taxpayers to make fiscal responsibility and innovative leadership hallmarks of my administration. That is why I am proud that Cook County is taking a leading role in the Combined Capacity Asset Performance Project. This project will identify changes needed to ensure grid reliability, provide us with expertise on developing a long-range energy curtailment plan for 45 of our buildings and support our continuing efforts at energy reduction and cost savings for taxpayers.”

Each year, PJM, an electricity industry leader, manages a capacity auction to buy enough power supply resources to meet the highest forecasted peak energy demand for the area it serves, including all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia. In PJM’s wholesale power markets, demand response resources compete directly with other forms of energy. Thus, demand response participants can bid into the auction, offering the amount of electricity they commit to reducing and receiving the same payments as power companies to meet electricity needs.

Under PJM’s new performance requirements, qualifying sources of energy must respond any time there is a critical need. Previously, demand response users could choose to participate only during summer months. For example, they could reduce air conditioning use. Yet PJM’s experience during the 2014 Polar Vortex demonstrated the need to rely on many sources of energy and different markets – fossil fuels from power plants, energy efficiency, renewable energy and demand response – that could be counted on year-round.

In the face of these updated requirements, this innovative pilot will show demand response participants new approaches to allow them to provide the year-round availability the grid needs.

The project will bundle variable, renewable energy, such as wind and solar, and the demand response potential of multiple buildings into combined capacity assets that are bid in the market. These energy resources can work together in real-time during emergency events to meet their electricity commitment.

“Demand response has demonstrated its potential to cut peak electricity demand, help balance the grid, and save customers money. The project offers an inventive way to preserve and grow this valuable resource in the PJM market,” said Andrew Barbeau, President of The Accelerate Group and senior clean energy consultant for the Environmental Defense Fund. “The collaboration will serve as a strategic model for buildings, which will be able to combine their demand response potential to enter the market where they wouldn’t be able to participate on their own.”

It’s a “flexible tool,” Stu Bresler, PJM senior vice president of markets, said, adding: “In addition to helping lower prices and reducing pressure on the generation fleet during periods of peak use, demand response can be used by states and local communities to meet their public policy objectives.”

“Facing our energy challenges requires Illinois to seek innovative ways to reduce electricity demand,” Citizens Utility Board Executive Director David Kolata said. “Programs like this are a win-win-win for Illinois. They’re good for our power grid, our planet, and our pocketbooks.”