Innovative ideas for every utility

Demand-side management grows up

In the old days, demand-side management (DSM) was almost exclusively about turning things off—pool pumps, air conditioners—in order for the local utility to survive those peak electricity use moments with a bit more breathing room (and no breath-holding).

Now, DSM encompasses a wide array of new options including one of our favorites: energy efficiency—making the same things work smarter with less energy.

E Source Forum 2017 showcased a variety of new DSM concept programs from across the U.S. during their annual Denver conference.

The “Lightning Round: Innovative DSM Programs” session brought together utilities as regionally varied as AEP Ohio and Con Edison to talk concepts from commercial new construction programs to partnerships with communications companies for better connected energy programs.

Here’s a quick rundown of these varied examples in DSM evolution (and links to more information, too).


AEP Ohio: New Construction Program

Al Kohler, Energy-Efficiency Program Manager, noted that the utility has had a buildings-based efficiency program for years that was very successful but that really ended up in one major category: lighting.

So, they thought: Let’s get ourselves involved earlier in the process, during the very discussions about (and before) construction, hence the development of the New Construction program.

Offering a financial incentive to builders willing to hear them out whole-building efficiency options has led to more extensive technology use and a successful push to make new construction in the area have a smaller energy impact.


Focus on Energy: Recharging Rural Wisconsin

While not a utility itself, Focus on Energy does have 108 utility partners in its mix—and that mix is a $100-million set of programs aimed at DSM.

Their website describes Focus on Energy as “Wisconsin utilities’ statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program. Since 2001, the program has worked with eligible Wisconsin residents and businesses to install cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.”

Andrea Hansen, Director, Marketing & Communications at Focus on Energy, discussed a new project in their mix during the session, a $26-million program to increase bring better EE benefits to rural customers.

Since EE often requires strong communication options to make devices work, Focus on Energy reached out to communication providers, giving them incentives to work with customers on energy efficiency options and offering connected-device kits for those customers, along with bill credits toward installation or monthly service as well.



SMUD—along with other partners such as the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, MEEA and NEEA—are working on the Coalition for Home Electronics Energy Reduction (or CHEER).

Cheri Davis, Strategic Business Planner at SMUD, discussed the thinking behind the coalition as an evolution. As we finish off the low-hanging EE fruit of lighting, opportunities are dwindling. So, it’s time to find (or make) new opportunities. Where do they see those ops popping up? In one of the largest categories of power suckers in the home: electronics.

SMUD and CHEER are looking to target TV and peripherals with tier 2 advanced power strips that shut down TV (or sound bars and the like) if no signal is received for 60 to 75 minutes.

And, instead of the utility pushing out this program to consumers, they’re eyeing pay TV provider to offer and install the strips.

SMUD launching a pilot now with 4,000 homes and two providers already on board. CHEER is hoping to expand this idea nationally.


Con Edison: Connected Homes Demonstration Project

Cristina Coltro, Manager, Distributed Resource Integration revealed that this project was one of the first launched under the New York REV initiative to test business models and increase distributed energy resources (DER) adoption.

Coltro separated this project into two buckets: elevating awareness and offering options.

First, the utility selected 275,000 customers and used our Oracle/Opower platform for home energy reports to develop specific, targeted and personalized campaigns.

Second bucket: an online marketing place where customers can shop for appliances and compare models by energy score, price and customer reviews.

They also used data analytics to best match customers to the right products and services using their own utility customer data, as well as public data and partner studies and research, discovering early on that themes around “trending” “customer” and “smart” were nearly twice as effective as those with the more traditional “cost savings” and “energy savings” labels.


SCE: BYOT Thermostat Program

Back in 2012, Southern California Edison (SCE) saw the growth opportunities in the thermostat category, said David Kaintz, Senior Program Manager, New Product Development.

So, the utility launched a pilot in 2013 with 3,000 customers on how they could optimize EE & DR with the thermostat in mind.

That pilot was very successful. They saw about 681 watts of load reduction every hour over a four-hour event.  So, from the pilot (and a couple more, too) came a program: Save Power Days Incentive Plus which offers a $125 incentive, along with bill credits.

The program currently has 43,000 customers enrolled, according to Kaintz.


City of Fort Collins: Solar Affordability Program

By far the newest kid in this DSM program mix, the Solar Affordability Program is actually a bit of a hybrid, combining renewables and efficiency projects into a single purpose.

John Phelen, Resource Conservation Manager, and Pete Iengo, Utilities Program Coordinator, described their unique thinking to the E Source Forum audience this way: The Solar Affordability Program combines clean energy, electricity, efficiency and conservation education into a single package, with a very structured, very direct link tying clean energy and efficiency.

The program provides solar bill credits in exchange for a commitment to work through a structured efficiency process, and each efficiency program is examined for the needs of each individual customer.

The utility admits they’re still in the questioning/testing phase: Is the solar benefit enough to incentivize customers for efficiency? Is a year-long enough? Does it work with all types of residential structures?

Their short-term goal: to reduce the energy burden to approximately 4%. Their long-term goal: to truly create behavior change.


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