EEM helps bear the load of grid stability

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By Ralf Edler, TeleComputer Communications

Electricity cannot be stored; it’s a real-time commodity-simultaneously delivered and consumed-and accurate and timely information of availability and price must be shared immediately among all players, 24×7, at lightning-fast speeds. Continual, real-time information and control is available through enterprise energy management (EEM) systems, rapidly emerging as a catalyst for change in the electricity industry.

The new technology consists of intelligent meters, dispersed throughout power distribution networks, that communicate with remote command-and-control software. Collectively known as EEM, the hardware and software help energy providers adjust supply of electricity in reaction to prices or demand, and energy consumers to adjust demand in reaction to prices or supply, controlling power quantity, quality and cost.

In the short term, EEM helps alleviate the shortage of available electricity by enabling the real-time exchange of information in demand response programs. In turn, these actions lower spot market prices at peak periods to benefit all buyers of power.

Atlanta-based RETX offers Load Management Dispatcher (LMD), a full-feature Web site, as the means for fast interaction between all retail energy players. Founded in 1998, the company’s first operational transaction “Negawatt Hub” (negawatt = a megawatt saved from the grid) let ISO New England offer both emergency response and price response programs.

In the mandatory curtailment emergency response program, RETX’s system notifies all participants of opportunities to participate in the capacity, transmission and energy markets via e-mail, pager or cell phone. End users respond by reducing consumption such as shedding loads or starting generators. The RETX server collects metered data from end-user sites to confirm load reduction and timing.

In the voluntary price response program, users may sell negawatts back to the grid when the electricity price is high. For example, when forecasted prices exceed $100 per MWh the ISO opens the doors to the “negawatt store” and users can decide how much energy to sell to the ISO at spot market prices for that 24-hour period.

According to Ross Malme, RETX president and CEO, “We created the means to push wholesale electricity prices down to end-user customers.” Studies show that reducing demand by 5 percent can reap as much as a 50 percent drop in market prices. However, to make the program work, real-time communications are needed so all market participants can access the same information and react immediately. Malme emphasized that, “Grid conditions can change dramatically in minutes and once-a-day dial-up links to a meter are of little use.”

Communications and metering were intelligent ION devices from Power Measurement. The continuously connected meters e-mail energy usage data directly to Negawatt Hub’s LMD software which processes the business transactions. With this real-time information network-price signals, notification, generation and consumption measurements, plus historical load profiles and usage-settlements can be done the day after the event.

Any of New England’s 192 energy suppliers can subscribe to the Negawatt Hub.

Historically, utilities and ISOs were responsible for grid stability, but with hundreds of independent producers now pumping power onto the grid, they too need to bear part of the burden.

Power Measurement’s president and CEO Brad Forth said, “This is where EEM technology comes into play. An EEM system can stabilize the grid all the way down the power delivery chain by controlling voltage and frequency, managing congestion, coordinating protection and fault clearing, and automatically activating reserve capacity.”

“Bottom line,” adds Forth, “EEM is helping create a new, more interactive energy marketplace.”

Edler can be reached at 520-690-3800; or via e-mail at RalfHEdler@cs.com.

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