I am looking forward to the National Town Meeting on Demand Response & Smart Grid July 9-11, 2013. It is one event I enjoy attending as it typically provides a wealth of information about these important topics. I am pleased to offer readers a glimpse into the National Town Meeting as I recently had the opportunity to ask Dan Delurey, president of the Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid (ADS), a few questions regarding the upcoming meeting.  

Evers: Dan, what would you describe as one of the foremost issues facing DR and how will it be addressed at the NTM?

Delurey: At the Town Meeting we will discuss a whole range of issues, challenges, and opportunities facing DR and smart grid. One of the key topics is the issue of time-based pricing and how to move that forward in the states. Time-based pricing is critical for making people aware that electricity does not cost the same to produce and deliver at all times, and for giving them the price signals that will encourage them to participate in DR programs. Many smart meters (which are necessary for such pricing because they measure on intervals) are now installed, and a very large amount of research shows that many customers will accept time-based rates. Now we need action by state utility commissions and utilities. At the Town Meeting we will discuss some new data on time-based pricing, and talk about how policy can be moved forward in a way that all stakeholders will accept.  

Another important issue we will be covering at the Town Meeting is including DR in new business and policy areas, such as building codes and design. Technologies such as building energy management systems (BEMs), programmable thermostats, and smart lighting and appliances have opened up a great opportunity for DR to reduce building energy usage. However, to really encourage this growth, these kinds of technologies must be included in the buildings themselves, which is where building codes and design standards come in.

Evers: This is all really great stuff. Will there be any information provided regarding the smart grid?

Delurey: On the smart grid side of things, we have an entire session devoted to microgrids and another one devoted to improving flexibility and resilience. We will also present some case studies on distribution automation and management. All of these may not get as much attention as smart meters, smart buildings and smart pricing, but they are very important in optimizing the overall electricity system.

Evers: A lot of small cities and towns are hurting financially and like most businesses, energy is most likely in the top five of their budget spend. How can they benefit from DR and the conference?

Delurey: Institutional buildings, such as municipal government buildings, are prime candidates for DR programs. If they have not done so already, local governments should talk to their utility or to a DR company about joining a DR program. DR usually provides an additional revenue stream to the owners of buildings on top of what they get from their energy savings. That would help them from a budgetary standpoint.    

A new area where local governments can engage in DR is dynamic street lighting. Almost all local governments spend money on street and public area lighting.  With new technology that allows lighting to be automatically and dynamically controlled, local governments can better optimize their street lighting and save money. For example, they can program these lights to dim when electricity costs more (if combined with time-based pricing), or they can even brighten the lights in certain areas or at certain times to deter crime (but save money by not having to brighten all of the lights). This is an exciting new area of the smart grid, right at the intersection of DR and energy efficiency, and we will have a presentation at the Town Meeting about it.

Evers: Last year you gave out your first Griddie Awards. How was it received? Care to give us a teaser on some of this year’s nominees? Any new faces or organizations?

Delurey: Last year we got a lot of feedback that the Griddie Awards were a great new addition to the Town Meeting. The Griddie Awards recognize the best marketing and communications efforts for smart grid programs and technologies. Attendees at the Town Meeting got to vote in real-time on which finalists they wanted to win, so it was another way to encourage participation and involvement in the event by all attendees. This year we’ve gotten a lot of great submissions from all over the country, which can be seen on our website. The large number of submissions shows that there are a lot of marketing and educational efforts going on to make customers aware of the DR and smart grid programs and technologies available to them, and how they can benefit from these. I hope you’ll come to the Town Meeting to find out who the winners are!

Evers: Thanks Dan.

If you are interested in attending the National Town Meeting, it’s not too late to register. I’ll see you there!