Demand Response: Keeping it Fresh, Fun & Simple For Customers

Baltimore Gas & Electric combines traditional and behavioural demand response programmes to increase customer participation.
Published: Wed 06 Apr 2016

Demand modifications, energy efficiency, demand response and behavioural-driven load shifts are increasingly being pulled together by utilities to formulate customer-facing programmes. This is being done to create a seamless customer experience and the utility still gets to meet its various load and revenue goals.

One such utility that is merging the various programmes to create more simplicity for its customers is Baltimore Gas & Electric. According to America Lesh, manager of energy efficiency programs for Baltimore Gas & Electric, customers don’t need to know that there are separate energy efficiency programmes. “Customers want to pick something, set it and forget it.”

BGE’s integrated demand response programmes

BGE has integrated its two demand response programmes which operate very differently from each other: Its Smart Energy Rewards programme, a behavioural programme managed by Opower and its PeakRewards programme, a traditional switch-based water heater and air conditioning programme. By merging these two programmes, the utility has gained control of over 10% of its peak demand.

BGE’s smart meter customers (just over 1 million) are automatically enrolled in the Smart Energy Rewards programme, which pays out a $1.25/kWh credit when customers reduce consumption below their average.

When customers enrol in the the PeakRewards programme (already 320,000), they help ease peak demand by allowing BGE to “cycle” their air conditioning and geyser on and off during certain seasons with a professionally installed programmable thermostat or outdoor switch. In return, these participants receive bill credits.

A customer in the PeakRewards programme is also enrolled in Smart Energy Rewards, and can earn whichever bill credit is higher. The switch programme controls 417MW of peak load reduction, and the behavioural programme averages 309 MW per event.

Because the programmes are distinct, the utility in total controls more than 725MW of peak load reduction. During a peak day in 2015, BGE customers consumed 6,507MW.

The PeakRewards has so far been very successful. It has resulted in a thriving demand response programme over the years and it has achieved a 92% customer satisfaction rate. Its success has been recognised and commended by the Peak Load Management Association.

The Smart Energy Rewards programme has grown from 315,000 customers in 2013 to 750,000 in 2014, to more than 1 million today.

Hungry for more demand response trials, roll outs and success stories? Check out our Demand Response In Focus series and join the debate.  

Making demand response fun

With BGE's behavioural demand response programme, managed by Opower, customers can earn credits without even really trying that hard.

BGE has been working with Opower since 2013 on its behavioural demand response programme and according to Josh Lich, director of product marketing at the demand management company, Smart Energy Rewards “has been wildly successful.” This is mostly because customers are keen to engage with the utility. While most utilities have email addresses for about 10% of their customers, BGE has verified emails for more than 50% of its customers because of the programme’s success. Interaction on social media has also seen major success.

Lesh points out that communication prior and post event is important to customers. The instant gratification (credits) and understanding of their contribution to the overall picture drives the programme’s success. The type of messaging also seems to be leveraging behavioural science. Even specific words, for instance, result in a higher level of customer participation.

Lesh says that BGE will need to "keep programmes fresh for customers, otherwise they gets stale, they tune out and do not engage."

In our article, What Is The Engaged Customer Worth To You?, we discuss how the engaged customer can represent the difference between extinction and survival of a utility business. More than ever, consumers are seeking added value, personal connection and products and services that align with their lifestyles—all of which go beyond the traditional energy experience.

The shift from consumer to “active demand response participant” is proving to be a win-win situation for both the consumer and the utility. The consumer can look forward to a lower utility bill and extra money in the form of rebates, and the utility will have a more stable grid to work with. [Consumer Engagement Will See Demand Response Take Off.]

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