Why do utilities implement load control, and what do they do when consumption rates approach capacity? Newton-Evans asked these questions and has exclusively released those results to Penton Media’s Customer Solutions Center of Excellence. The research firm completed the privately funded study in September of last year that looked at utilities’ demand response, load management and direct load control programs:

Weather and the Economy Shape Responses

The economy and the weather patterns have affected changes in active load control trigger events over the last three years, as well as the then-incomplete 2010 calendar year. This change continues into mid-2011. Nonetheless 2008 averages for these utilities stood at 16 trigger events for a total average of 46 hours. In 2009 the level fell to an average of 14 events for a total of 43 hours. By September, 2010, ten events for a total of 29 hours was the average among this group. The way the weather has affected the country to date in 2011, and a hot summer ahead, we may see new records in peak demand that will surpass historical levels of active load control trigger events.

From the information obtained from 46 utility officials in a 2007 study of DR, also conducted by Newton-Evans, there was a disparity noted between the frequency of invocation of active load control programs among utilities based on type. IOUs were less likely to activated load controls, and for shorter periods, than were their counterparts at municipals and especially at cooperatives. Similarly, small and mid-size utilities were likely to activate load control programs more frequently and for longer durations than were large utilities.

DR officials were presented with a list of eight statements concerning load management. The most important (strong agreement) was for the statement “we are able to gather timely and accurate load information” while the statements “our present load management system in sufficient for our short-term needs” followed. Third in importance was “we have adequate load forecasting and load profiling technology.”

What to do When Consumption Rates Approach Capacity

Officials were presented with a list of seven specific strategy options along with space to write in other remarks as power consumption rates approach production capability or planned purchase capacity. Most important among these officials were “perform integrated resource planning: (47% cited this); expand/promote additional LM and/or DR/LR programs (43%). Forty-three percent also indicated they would “develop a plan for LM and/or DR/LR programs. One third indicated that the “situation does not apply to our utility” and/or “we would “purchase excess capacity from other sources.”