The Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid (“ADS”) hosted its 8th National Town Meeting July 12-14, 2011. In addition to sharing best practices and lessons learned, the meeting highlighted the extraordinary amount of work yet to be accomplished in order to provide US citizens with the full benefits of the smart grid. I found Senator Mark Udall’s (D-CO) keynote address interesting and informative. “You grow by innovating, not by looking back,” challenged Senator Udall. A belief that innovation is the key to our energy future is what lead the senator to co-sponsor a bipartisan bill with Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), the Electric Consumer Right to Know Act (S 1029), referred to as e-Know. The bill:

  • Provides customers the right to real-time access to their electric usage information
  • Allows customers to benefit directly from new information generated by the smart grid
  • Allows customers to provide third parties, such as companies that facilitate home energy management systems, with access to their usage data
  • Is technology-neutral, giving customers the right to choose how they receive their consumption data

The belief here is that information will encourage others to design and offer systems to customers that will assist with energy management. When asked, “How do you promote this to customers?” by an attendee, Senator Udall responded,

Green is the new Red, White and Blue. It is complementary and protective of our freedom.

Data access was not the only concern raised. FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff addressed demand response compensation. “The market needs to be structured so that demand response gets the compensation it deserves,” he stated. To highlight the value of DR, the chairman used a PJM example. In August 2006, PJM reported its largest peak load. Demand response saved over $200 million dollars. With savings like this, DR cannot be ignored. Hopefully MISO representatives were in the room because Chairman Wellinghoff had a heads up for them: Make sure your soon-to-be-filed capacity market plan includes demand response!

Full of information touching every aspect of DR and the Smart Grid, the National Town Meeting was worth my train ride from Philly to DC. For example, I learned from Diane Regas, Associate VP, Programs, at the Environmental Defense Fund, that the organization released a fact sheet addressing the radio frequency (“RF”) concerns raised by some smart meter customers. Hopefully it will assuage their fears. Industry players involved on the international level like Seimens, Silver Springs Network and Enbala agreed that entities in other countries look to the US for insight in these matters. And Eric Dresselhuys, Executive Vice President, Silver Springs Networks touched on the smart meter battle occurring across the US: “$0 – $1.00 per customer is the range that is killing projects.” Wow! As someone who handles rate cases, I know the battle is often over cents. But hearing Eric say it, really made me wonder: How could we compromise our energy future over cents? Given the importance of energy to our economy, why would we not select the option providing the stronger energy future instead of a mid-term fix? In spite of leaving the meeting inspired and concerned,  I plan on attending for the entire three days next year.