New Real-Time Demand Response Coming To Millions

A new real-time demand response optimization and management system can reach millions of end-points in near real-time.
Published: Thu 16 Oct 2014

The smartening of the grid is opening the way for large-scale demand response to improve the management of the grid on timescales nearing real-time. This is provided the process can be automated to overcome the challenges of traditional demand response technologies, which have restricted their use to the largest customers.

In 2012 the Silicon Valley data analytics startup AutoGrid was awarded funding from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) to develop such a system in partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Columbia University.

Demand response optimization and management

The rationale behind the Demand Response Optimization and Management System – Real Time (DROMS-RT) is to enable personalized price signals to be sent to large numbers of customers in extremely short timeframes, incentivizing them to alter their electricity use in response to grid conditions. The platform is based on open standards such as OpenADR and messages are sent to customers by email, text message or phone call. Customers’ adjustments of their energy usage result in reduced energy costs.

In June the system was benchmarked at forecasting the power consumption of over one million endpoints simultaneously every 10 minutes on a medium-size cluster running on commodity hardware servers. Endpoints include households, commercial buildings, individually metered office suites, factories and other locations or devices linked to the grid and communication networks. Further, the performance scales linearly, without any compromises in accuracy, by simply adding more servers to a cluster.

In perspective:

  • A single DROMS cluster can generate more than 144 million forward-looking forecasts regarding energy consumption per day and over 52.5 billion forecasts in a year.
  • Five DROMS clusters would be capable of monitoring and managing power at every commercial and industrial site in the US equipped with smart meters.
  • DROMS can scale clusters linearly to handle exponentially increasing amounts of data, generating forecasts and implementing controls in real-time.

Demand response forecasting availability

The DROMS-RT is available as a cloud-based API to any application using AutoGrid’s Energy Data Platform (EDP). This enables it to be deployed in a matter of days, compared with the months or longer for traditional demand response technologies. For example at the City of Palo Utilities DROMS was deployed for large commercial and industrial customers in under 30 days.

“The ARPA-E program gave us the tools to innovate and fundamentally re-think how predictive analytics and Internet-scale computing can reshape the future of the electric power industry,” said Dr. Amit Narayan, founder and CEO of AutoGrid. “Not only can cloud-based solutions be deployed more economically and more rapidly than traditional systems, big data analytics provide more insight and control to systems operators to improve performance, security and reliability.”

Open standards-based systems

As part of the project, AutoGrid collaborated with Lawrence Berkeley National Labs and other organizations within the OpenADR Alliance to show how open standards-based systems can enable new technologies to come online seamlessly and in a cost-effective manner. With the industry’s first OpenADR 2.0b certified, fully backward-compatible Virtual Top Node server, AutoGrid can signal millions of devices from hundreds of manufacturers, ranging from residential thermostats to Building Management Systems (BMS), as well as incorporate emerging technologies, such as LED lighting, battery and electric vehicle charging stations, into grid management programs.

DROMS-RT aimed to achieve a 90% cost reduction on conventional, hardware-based demand response systems to implement and can yield up to 30% more energy per event.

Whereas traditional demand response programs target peak capacity and can be dispatched days or several hours in advance, systems such as DROMS-RT open the way for using demand response to manage spinning reserves, frequency regulation, voltage and reactive power optimization, which have more stringent dispatch and response time requirements.

Other utilities using DROMS include Austin Energy in Texas and Oklahoma Gas and Electric.