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. We’re working with K12 pilot sites in SCE territory (and 24 K12 districts along the west coast) for this and other affordable, smart building control pilots. 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.
CEL has begun working with Newport Mesa Unified School District in Southern California. Newport Mesa wishes to enroll two of its schools in this pilot in order to explore the potential for 5-25% energy savings and 20-40% peak demand reduction. This will help the district reduce its increasingly complex energy costs and to put any savings toward other facility maintenance expenses that can improve health and safety. The two partner schools currently enrolled are Harbor View Elementary and Sonora Elementary.
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.