In partnership with PLMA, this group is for practitioners from energy utilities, solution providers, and trade allies to share load management expertise and explore innovative approaches to program delivery, pricing constructs, and technology adoption.

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Utilities Can Choose From Variety of Load Management Technology

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Freelance Researcher and Writer Final Draft Communications, LLC

In addition to serving as an Energy Central Community Manager, Karen Marcus has nearly 25 years of experience as a content developer within the energy and technology industries. She has worked...

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To ensure power generation and power use are balanced, utilities must deploy a number of strategies, including load management, which is proactive control over power demand. This process can be facilitated with technology, and there are various types to consider, each of which performs the function in a slightly different way. Here I explore some of these solutions and their benefits.

Load Controllers

A load controller limits the amount of electricity a residence, business, or entire office building can use during a specified period. It may include the ability for a utility or third-party service to manually reduce customers’ energy use when overall demand is high. Or, depending on its features, it may simply control load automatically based on signals from both the utility and customer devices that use electricity. Such devices include heating and cooling units, lighting systems, and electric vehicle chargers.

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Advanced load controllers work in conjunction with energy production equipment, such as solar generation units on customer premises, to enact transactive energy methods. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) explains, “Buildings and their devices automatically communicate, coordinate, and negotiate energy use with the power grid quickly and comprehensively.”

Load Shifting Solutions

Some devices focus on controlling load only on specific devices in a way that customers don’t notice. For example, one controller enables utilities to use real-time data to allow water heater loads to shift away from peak hours. This process benefits both the grid, because it remains balanced, and customers because they save money.

Using water heaters as the focus of such a system is critical because water heaters are one of the highest energy-consuming appliances. Surprisingly, this process doesn’t impact customers’ experience of the device. The water in the water heater is preheated during low-peak times so usage can be decreased during higher-peak times. The process enables customers to lower their energy usage without having to take action.

Customer-Controlled Solutions

Load control doesn’t always have to be entirely the responsibility of utilities. Customers can use an app and smart solution to proactively determine which appliances continue to get power in the event of a high-load event or grid outage. For example, a residential customer may decide that a pool pump doesn’t need to continue receiving power, while things like the HVAC system and kitchen appliances do.

Like apps, power backup batteries can work with homes that have power generation equipment on-premise as well as those that don’t. The concept here is similar to the app technology in that it is meant to keep power going only for essential devices.

Customers can also simply use smart devices, such as smart thermostats or even connected appliances to keep closer track of their energy usage. Utility programs can pair with these devices by alerting customers during high-demand periods to turn their heat or air conditioning down a few degrees and avoid using major appliances like washing machines.

Load management helps utilities avoid blackouts and ensure there is enough electricity available for high-demand periods. A variety of technology can help them in implementing these critical processes.

What is your experience with load management technology? Please share in the comments.

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