May 31, 2024

Preparing for the grid of the future through flexible demand programs


While searching for additional ways to prepare for the future and engage customers, members of WPPI Energy discovered they are on the right track and created a guidebook for other utilities hoping to learn from their research.

Member utilities of WPPI Energy understand the importance of both offering cutting edge customer programs and creating a diverse and cost-effective power supply portfolio. And with the influx of renewable energy resources on the horizon, many utilities are looking more closely at flexible demand. WPPI recently pursued and utilized grant funding only to discover its members are on the right track in terms of programs and services that support demand flexibility.

“As a member-owned and member-governed joint action agency, one of our main goals is to help members reduce costs,” shared WPPI Senior Energy Services Manager Anna Stieve, who led the project. “Members inquired about the viability of offering more flexible demand programs to their customers, and that’s exactly what this project looked into.”

The project revealed that member utilities are taking the right steps to support grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEBs). GEBs are energy efficient buildings that use smart technologies and onsite distributed energy resources to provide demand flexibility while also reducing energy costs, offering grid services, and meeting occupant needs. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office estimates that services and other benefits from GEBs have the potential to save up to $18 billion in power system costs and 80 million tons of carbon emissions annually.

“We leveraged our in-house knowledge and spoke with industry experts across the nation to roadmap best practices when it comes to GEBs,” continued Stieve. “We were hoping for insight into new technologies and programs we could adopt, but instead the study confirmed that through our current offerings and upcoming smart thermostat pilot, our members are creating the building blocks necessary to prepare for a flexible demand future.”

Through WPPI, its members have access to forward-thinking programs and services that promote flexible demand. These include support for energy efficiency upgrades, electric vehicles, solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, and time-of-use rates. The organization plans to roll out its pilot program for smart thermostat demand response in 2025.

The study did not show substantial support for heat pumps or heat pump water heaters from a demand flexibility perspective at this time, but the project team states they will continue to monitor to see if that remains true.

“GEBs continue to be an area of great interest, and while we’re pleased to see members of WPPI are already moving in the right direction, we plan to stay abreast of these opportunities,” said Stieve. “Until then, we’re sharing our guidebook so other utilities can learn from it as we all work together to help move the industry forward.”

To view the complete “Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings: A Guidebook for Utilities,” visit: