How a holistic approach to demand response can meet (and exceed) the hype



Editor's note: Earlier this month Kevin Klustner and Todd Greenwalt of Powerit Solutions wrote an opinion piece for Smart Grid News questioning whether demand response can scale to the height of its hype. Today John Rossi, Senior Vice President for Corporate Strategy at Comverge, presents a very different perspective.


By John Rossi


Many people tend to think about the smart grid from their own frame of reference, and with something so large and complex, it can be difficult to take a holistic view. Still, it is only when everything is working together, from supply and demand-side technologies to energy policy and consumer education, that we will be able to achieve the goal of a more reliable and efficient grid.


This interconnectedness is also true of the demand response industry. At the core of demand response is the goal of optimizing energy usage by helping utilities, grid operators and commercial and industrial organizations better manage peak demand. Demand response control events might only happen a few days each year, but the ability to curtail demand at the touch of a button and avoid both costly power outages and peaking generation is what makes demand response such a critical part of the global energy mix.


Given the importance of a holistic approach, we were surprised to read the recent story on that doubted that demand response can scale and questioned whether commercial and residential loads were worth trying to reduce through demand management programs.  The authors raised some valid points, including highlighting the important role that automated demand response will increasingly play, but too swiftly dismissed the role that commercial and residential customers can play in curtailing peak demand. In our view, industrial demand response is not the standalone solution that the article suggests it may be, especially since much of the industrial load is not and never will be remotely controllable since it is process critical and hence not interruptible at any arbitrary time.


As noted by Doug Houseman of EnerNex in the comments section of the article, "Let us not get into the rut of the "Right Way" to do demand response, please. There are many program types; they can all work in the right setting with the right incentives.”