DistribuTECH vs. DSM: Is It Time to Make Another Name Change?

By Teresa Hansen
UA Managing Editor

As I said in my last “From the Editor,” this year’s DistribuTECH Conference and Exhibition promised to be one of the best yet, and I was right. Attendees at this year’s event, which was held in San Diego, saw some of the latest energy technologies and had the opportunity to hear about how those technologies are being used.

Not only was this year’s event interesting to those who attended, but, unlike past years, it drew a lot of attention from those who knew nothing about its content. On the opening day, the convention hall was full of reporters from the local television stations as well as the local newspapers. There was even a call from a talk radio show host in Los Angeles. For obvious reasons, anything remotely related to the electric utility industry is big news in California, and DistribuTECH was no exception.

Certainly, California’s dilemma is impacting most everyone involved in the industry, particularly some of the companies that exhibit at DistribuTECH. Many of the exhibiting companies offer energy management and load profiling tools, which are of particular interest in California. The technology allows both utilities and their high-end energy users to better understand energy consumption. Of course, better understanding can lead to better energy management and a decrease in its use, resulting in lower energy demand. A decrease in demand would benefit everyone in California-suppliers, utilities, users, politicians and policy makers. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that even the local media was interested in what was happening at the convention center in early February.

While we were all pleased with the added attention, I couldn’t help but find the sudden interest in DistribuTECH somewhat ironic. In 1995, I attended my first DistribuTECH event in San Jose, Calif. At that time, the conference and exhibition was not called DistribuTECH, instead it was called DA/DSM (Distribution Automation/Demand Side Management). The technology and solutions, of course, were not as advanced as they are today, but many of them were aiming for the same results-a better understanding of energy use and a decrease in energy demand.

For those of you who are familiar with DistribuTECH, you probably remember that we gradually dropped the name DA/DSM and adopted the current name. We did this because DSM never really took off in North America. In 1995 and later years, utilities weren’t too inclined to spend money in order to sell less of their product. At the same time, most energy users weren’t inclined to spend a lot on expensive energy management technology to save a little on their energy bills-usually less than the cost of the technology. Therefore, DSM was never really adopted.

This year, however, there seems to be renewed interest in DSM. Could it be the California crisis is going to change the way the industry and energy users look at DSM? Now, more than ever before, DSM is truly needed. Energy rates are high and supply is short, at least in California. Both energy providers and users now have incentive to reduce demand. The technology, which has existed for several years and is still available, suddenly seems to matter.

The activity and talk at DistribuTECH 2001 certainly makes me believe that now more than ever, the technologies and solutions that have been displayed every year since the very first conference and exhibition are not only valid, but are also valuable. So, maybe the name DSM finally works.

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