As extreme weather events grow more common, grid reliability is becoming a larger concern. Extreme heat, extreme cold, wildfires, drought, and many other conditions can cause massive stress on power grids. As a result, blackouts and other energy emergencies are becoming more common. Utilities and their partners need to prepare for the many extreme weather events that occur, particularly during the summertime. In July 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an emergency proclamation to ensure grid reliability and relieve demand on the grid during extreme weather events. In response to Governor Newsom's proclamation, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) authorized Southern California Edison (SCE) to run the DRET pilot.
SCE's Demand Response Emerging Technologies (DRET) program will operate this pilot. The three-year DRET demonstration, which began in May 2022, will demonstrate how CEL's technology can be used to ensure grid reliability.
In order to increase grid reliability, utilities need to integrate more affordable, renewable energy. One way to enable this integration is through real-time pricing, in which customers’ electricity rates vary based on the utility’s real-time production cost. However, many customers will require affordable automation and controls in order to take advantage of these changes. Therefore, the pilot allows the utility to reduce risk and cost for pilot customers. SCE will pay for a building audit, hardware, installation, and software licenses for the duration of the DRET pilot. They will compensate participants for any load shift by the customer’s equipment in response to the pilot prices, meaning that the customer is not at risk of paying more than they would have on their standard rates.
Learnings from this pilot may inform the design of other customer-friendly programs that speed adaptation to a changing energy landscape and emerging energy prices. The goals of the DRET pilot are to:
CEL is participating in this pilot as a technology provider. Our role includes evaluating target sites for technical fit with project objectives and potential for savings. Once a site is accepted into the program, we will supervise a field technician who will install and commission real-time pricing gateway devices, metering, and monitoring.
Newport Mesa Unified School District in Southern California was the first district out of the gate. Newport Mesa has enrolled seven of its nearly 30 school campuses in this pilot in order to help the district reduce its increasingly complex energy costs. Their goal is to spend less time futzing with the Three S's (schedules setpoints and spreadsheets) and put technician time and bill savings toward other facility maintenance expenses that can improve student health and safety.
Temecula Valley Unified is another pilot participant who are looking to find affordable ways to keep students comfortable in a dessert region where temperatures routinely rise to nearly 100 (°F) during months when buildings are still occupied.
We’re working with K12 pilot sites in SCE territory for this and other affordable, smart building control pilots. While the 2023 summer pilot slots for the DRET program are currently waitlisted, CEL is working on paid pilots all throughout the United States. Interested? Apply @ srs.communityenergy.tech.
This pilot demonstrates a win-win-win for customers, utilities, and the environment. Real-time pricing will allow utility customers to save money without sacrificing comfort. Utilities will benefit from grids that aren't overstressed as well as increased customer participation and satisfaction. Finally, dynamic rates will increase energy efficiency and support decarbonization efforts—a clear win for the environment.