Original post in mySA (San Antonio's homepage) here.
FRANK LACEY, FOR THE EXPRESS-NEWS : AUGUST 9, 2015
As the blazing summer heat continues, Texans need to know that the electric grid is up to the challenge of keeping millions of air conditioners running at full speed, in addition to powering the lights, electronics and other appliances.
More and more in the United States, keeping the electricity flowing (and avoiding blackouts) is in the hands of individuals and businesses themselves. Through demand response, consumers are empowered to manage their electricity usage when the grid is most strained — usually during heat waves or cold spells — improving grid reliability, saving money, reducing environmental impact and avoiding the need for more power plants.
For individuals, demand response might mean installing a high-tech thermostat that can power down air conditioners for a few minutes. A business might reduce its energy use by shifting its manufacturing processes.
Consumers and businesses in Texas, however, will have to wait to take advantage of demand response opportunities that could have saved millions of dollars in energy costs.
Bills to expand the use of demand response in Texas did not pass in the recent Texas legislative session. But proponents — including members of the Advanced Energy Management Alliance, or AEMA — are encouraged by an amendment to a new law that could lead to some limited progress. AEMA also plans to work during this legislative interim with other electric industry stakeholders to craft broadly supported demand response expansion legislation for 2017.
AEMA believes the future success of demand response legislation is bolstered not only by the state’s growing population (and their need for reliable power), but also by a new study that shows significant possible savings from demand response.
A recently released analysis by the South-Central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource, or SPEER, found that just a few consumers reducing their electricity use on only five days in 2012 and 2013 could have lowered power costs for all Texans by $209.6 million.
These savings are only the “tip of the iceberg,” according to SPEER, which also pointed out that the two years studied were actually “mild years.” Savings during more extreme weather years, such as 2011 when Texans experienced one of the hottest summers in decades, “would be significantly higher,” the report stated.
The SPEER analysis underscores what we already know — demand response could bring huge economic benefits to Texans, real dollar savings that could be spent elsewhere.
Demand response legislation supported by AEMA — House Bill 3343 by Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, and Senate Bill 1284 by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin — would have required the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, to study and report on demand response opportunities and market participation.
Instead, an amendment to House Bill 4097 would require the Public Utility Commission of Texas, or PUC, and ERCOT to study and report to the Legislature the potential for seawater desalination projects to participate in existing ERCOT demand response opportunities in the ERCOT market. These projects, which use significant amounts of electricity, will provide a helpful example of a customer the PUC and ERCOT can use to model the benefits of demand response.
AEMA believes the study required by this amendment will echo what the SPEER report found — that even a small reduction in electric demand translates into big savings.
Texans shouldn’t be kept waiting for those savings, or for a more reliable, efficient electric grid. AEMA urges ERCOT and the PUC to examine these studies and other data and take steps on their own — without legislative mandate — to grow the use of demand response in Texas.
Frank Lacey is chairman of Advanced Energy Management Alliance (http://aem-alliance.org) and senior vice president, regulatory and market strategy, for CPower.