Demand Response: California’s Clean-Energy Potential
California is one of the leading states when it comes to clean-energy potential, with significant statewide efforts to reduce energy use. Recently, the state passed S.B. 1414, which, according to an article published by the Environmental Defense Fund, “will help accelerate the use of demand response”. “Demand response” is an incentive that pays people to save energy when the electric grid consumes too much. Published on the EDF’s blog page, Michael Panfil’s article explains how demand response can change the way the United States uses energy by paying people to conserve it. Panfil says, “EDF has been heavily involved in this case, given how important demand response could be in helping to lower customer energy costs and providing environmental benefits”.
How It Works: Demand response urges utility customers to use energy at times when there is less demand or renewable energy is more prevalent. In turn, this decreases the amount of energy used on the electric grid and reduces the use of “peaker plants.” According to Panfil, peaker plants are “dirty, typically coal-fired power plants reserved for use only a few days a year to accommodate ‘peak’ electricity demand”. To offset the peaker plant footprint, demand response requires customers to use lower-priority, high-energy appliances (think water heaters and pool pumps) only when wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources are at their peak. This way, renewable energy can replace energy sources that create carbon pollution or lead to blackouts.
Why California: Although California is commonly thought to be at the forefront of energy conservation, Panfil writes that “the state’s demand response programs are lagging behind those in other states and regions of the country like the Mid-Atlantic”. However, Panfil also notes that, “In EDF’s new report, Putting Demand Response to Work for California, we offer recommendations on how to unlock demand response as an important part of the overall strategy for California’s bright energy future”. California could soon implement demand response in greater quantities, especially after the passage of S.B. 1414.
Overall Benefits: There’s no doubt that demand response will benefit businesses, people and, of course, the environment. According to Panfil, “Throughout the Midwest and Northeast, demand response programs saved electricity users $11.8 billion in 2013 alone”. It’s time for California to take decisive action on demand response.