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DR: Fundamentals of Demand Response

What is Demand Response (DR)?

Demand Response (DR) programs are offered by utilities to their electric consumers to help provide grid services that ensure the reliable delivery of low-cost electricity to the community. To support these services, consumers will reduce and/or shift their energy consumption when called upon by the electric utility. Many demand response programs use automation to eliminate the need for the consumer to manually take action during a demand response event. Utilities will typically use automated control to interrupt or cycle larger loads within a home or business. Eaton offers a range of automation solutions for both residential and commercial/industrial demand response programs.

Why do electric utilities deploy demand response programs?

Business and financial growth concept
Utilities deploy demand response programs to reduce their power supply costs, either in terms of their wholesale demand charge or in the cost of installing and maintaining generation. In some cases, DR also allows a utility to reduce their transmission and distribution costs and to operate their systems more efficiently. Demand response programs provide utility customers an opportunity to participate in programs that help stabilize or even reduce the retail cost of electricity. In addition, these same DR programs provide utility system operations benefits for better power system management. In many cases, the demand response resources replace higher cost, less efficient and more carbon-intensive generation.

How does an electric utility obtain ROI from a demand response program?

Demand response resources provide the utility with the ability to reduce peak capacity, mitigate high energy or transmission prices, and manage voltage disturbances on the utilities distribution system. Eaton worked with our utility customers to develop a DR value assessment model that results in a clear and concise enumeration of the costs and value of a DR program that can be tuned to your utility situation.

What is included in an electric utility demand response program?

Eaton provides a variety of products to facilitate the demand response efforts of an electric utility.  A typical DR system consists of a control system at the utility, a communications system and control devices at end-customer homes and businesses.

Control system

Eaton’s Yukon demand response management software provides a robust set of features for utilities implementing DR programs. 

  • Web base front end
  • Simple event definition and management across multiple communication technologies
  • Targeted asset grouping for system-wide or surgical type events
  • Automated or manual event initiation
  • Program enrollment and asset tracking business processes
  • Event participation history at multiple levels of an event
  • Commercial and industrial load management for managing the interaction with larger facilities (optional module)
  • Load reduction estimates per targeted group (optional module)
  • Integration of third-party assets and communication systems (optional modules)
    • Ecobee and Honeywell Wi-Fi thermostats
  • Third-party integration options are available (optional modules)
    • Installation and program enrollment
    • Manual event initiation and scheduling 

Communications system

Eaton’s DR products support a number of communications systems including both one-way and two-way communications:

  • Eaton’s RFN Mesh
  • Cellular communications
  • Itron’s GENX Network
  • ZigBee
  • VHF and 900MHZ Flex paging
  • Power Line Carrier (PLC)

Eaton works with electric utility customers to help select the option that best fits their functionality and cost requirements.

Control devices

Eaton’s Load Control Receivers (LCRs) come in the communications options listed above in three different form factors: 

  • For a fast and easy install, Eaton’s small box LCRs are designed to control air conditioning, but can also can be installed on any load that is controlled with a 2-amp control circuit (standby-generation)
  • For more flexibility, Eaton’s big box LCRs are designed to control multiple loads with a single control device. The big box LCRs can be built with up to three 2-amp or 30-amp relays
  • For cost effective upgrades of legacy DR systems, Eaton’s board-only LCRs can be used to change communications and add functionality to many legacy controls

What is the difference between residential, agricultural, and commercial and industrial demand response?

Residential and small commercial program members are generally community-focused and participate in DR programs because they want to be part of the solution. They provide a generally homogeneous environment and have HVAC (air conditioning and space heating), water heater, pool pump, electric vehicles and hot tub loads that can be used in DR programs.
Modern house in the countryside
Agricultural program members can be a very large part of the load in a utilities service territory. Managing irrigation pumps, pivots, crop dryers, and storage facilities allows utilities to reduce peak capacity and lower total energy supply costs. These customers generally participate in DR programs to reduce their energy costs.
Applications for Eaton's load control switches include air conditioners, water heaters and irrigation systems.
Commercial and industrial program members also generally participate in DR programs to reduce their total energy costs. Because of the wide variation in the types of facilities and resources available to manage, Eaton developed a load control module that addresses the specific needs of this customer class.

What kind of control system is required for a Demand Response program?

Utility requirements determine and define the type of control system that will deliver the required functionality for a successful demand response program.

  • A standard Load Management System (LMS) is generally adequate to manage peak capacity
  • A Distributed Resource Management System (DRMS) provides additional functionality including DR resource forecasting, interfaces to third party systems, coordination of multiple DR resources and applications like Volt/VAR management
  • A Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS) includes optimal dispatch of resources, distribution power flow control, and locational dispatch functions

Eaton’s Yukon DRMS system coupled with CYME distribution analysis software can be tailored to provide the functionality required to meet the demand response requirements of most utilities.


Save time and money with Eaton's innovative AMI and DR solutions

Eaton offers a flexible platform that allows utilities to evolve with changing technology, while maintaining control of capital spending and budgets. Our solution is forward and backward compatible, giving you the capacity for future expansion. Implementing our innovative AMI metering and Demand Response solutions does not require across-the-board equipment replacement and configuration, saving you time and money.