Ignore Volt/VAR optimization at your peril. Regulators may soon require it.



It looks like Volt/VAR optimization (VVO) will soon see substantial uptake. To be fair, I should warn you that I have been predicting this day for... oh, for about 12 years now. It just seemed logical that utilities would want to use VVO to save the typical 2-4% of electricity that is otherwise thrown away.


But the day never came. Over the years, I realized that the blockers were not about the technology but about the business model. Utilities didn't want to hurt their own bottom lines by saving electricity they could otherwise charge for.


Guest contributor Jeremy Wilson implies below that regulators are now apt to allow revenue recovery. If so, the tipping point may be near.


I'm not sure I agree with Jeremy that we've already hit the limits of energy efficiency through behavior change. I suspect that the Opowers of the world believe there's more efficiency to be wrung from consumers using the behavioral modification techniques they pioneered. And I believe there's lots more we can do to make our thermostats and appliances smart about energy so consumers don't have to be.


But I do agree that it's high time to take a serious look at VV0. If I keep repeating this same prediction long enough, eventually I'll be right. Use the Talk Back form to tell me if it's now, or if I have another 12 years to wait. - Jesse Berst


By Jeremy Wilson


Why VVO is hot right now

Recommendation: Utilities should get in front of the growing regulatory wave by evaluating VVO solutions that provide more than just CVR benefits


Following many years of gentle seas, the tide appears to be shifting with regard to regulatory policy toward energy efficiency (EE) initiatives. The days of relying on changes in consumer behavior to achieve energy savings are waning, as limits to that approach have been reached and EE goals nationwide continue to fall short. 


Electric utilities presently have a tool at their disposal that is effective regardless of habits, energy-efficient appliances or CFL light bulb use. Voltage control - specifically Volt/VAR Optimization (VVO) - is a solution with many added benefits over Conservation Voltage Reduction (CVR) methods that have traditionally been used to achieve voltage reduction. VVO is not your grandfather’s CVR - and in order to get ahead of the regulatory wave right now, utilities should begin evaluating VVO solutions that provide more than just CVR benefits.


Beginning with the NARUC Resolution of November 2012, which stated that state regulatory bodies should remove all barriers to allow utilities to implement VVO/CVR as an EE tool, the waters have been slowly rising as regulators in various states are learning that VVO/CVR can have a significant impact on EE and conservation levels - all without any associated customer participation or required change in behavior. VVO/CVR offer great payback, relatively speedy results and customer benefits that are verifiable through the Measurement & Verification (M&V) process.