Customer DERs Relieved Grid Strain and Reduced Electricity Demand During Winter Storm Elliott
CPower customers helped grid operators avoid blackouts by providing over 50 GWh of electricity reduction during Winter Storm Elliott. Customers responded to 197 unique dispatches across three demand response programs in PJM and ISO-NE alone, which together cover all or part of 19 states and Washington, D.C.
In quickly curtailing their loads, CPower customers helped the PJM and ISO-NE regions avoid grid failures as freezing weather caused widespread power outages elsewhere in the country over the two days before Christmas.
“This storm underscores the increasing frequency of significant extreme weather events (the fifth major winter event in the last 11 years) and underscores the need for the electric sector to change its planning scenarios and preparations for extreme events,” NERC President and CEO Jim Robb said, in announcing that FERC, NERC and NERC Regional Entities have launched a joint inquiry into the operations of the bulk power system during Winter Storm Elliott.
With extreme weather events occurring more often, in both winter and summer, regulators and grid operators increasingly look to customer DERs to keep the power on during times of high energy demand. CPower customers, for example, were dispatched a record 1,030 times in 2022.
Electricity Reduction was Key in Winter Storm Elliott Response
During Winter Storm Elliott, CPower customers responded to dispatched events in PJM’s Emergency Capacity and Synch Reserves DR programs as well as ISO-NE’s Active-Demand Capacity Reserves (ADCR) program. The PJM Emergency Capacity dispatches were the program’s first winter events since the 2014 Polar Vortex.
PJM dispatched roughly 4,000 MW of DR on Dec. 23 and another 7,000 MW on Dec. 24 as capacity dropped and demand rose. Power demand rose to a peak of 135,000 MW on the evening of Dec. 23 while forced outages reached as high as 34,500 MW. Demand then remained high overnight, thereby preventing some power plants from replenishing their fuel supplies. By the time the morning peak came on Dec. 24, which was the coldest day of the Christmas weekend, PJM was missing approximately 57,000 MW of its generation flee due to winter storm challenges.
Similarly, unexpected generator outages and reductions and lower-than-expected imports led to a shortfall in operating reserves in ISO-NE, prompting the grid operator to dispatch DR twice as part of its efforts to balance supply and demand and maintain reliability on the regional power system during the evening peak hours of Dec. 24. ISO-NE declared a capacity deficiency and implemented measures under Operating Procedure No. 4 (OP-4) after 2,150 MWs of resources scheduled to contribute power during the evening peak became unavailable. Measures included using reserve resources to balance supply and demand and requesting conservation at market participants’ facilities.
DER Participation Alleviates Grid Strain During Extreme Weather
Historically, grid operators have called upon customers for load relief in summer months when demand has typically been highest due to extreme heat. However, winter electricity demand has increased in recent years due to extreme cold and heating electrification. For example, industry leaders cited big growth in electric heat as a chief cause of blackouts during Winter Storm Elliott, noting that over the past decade the number of households heated with electricity had surged by about 20% in the hardest hit states of Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
With heat electrification expanding and severe cold becoming more common and spreading further across the country, customer DERs are important in providing load relief and preventing blackouts during extreme weather events year-round.
CPower is the national leader in unlocking the power of customer DERs, with 6.3 GW of capacity across more than 17,000 sites in the U.S, and its customers are vital in strengthening the grid where and when it’s needed the most, as evidenced by how they provided load relief and energy reduction during Winter Storm Elliott.
Furthermore, CPower has hosted a webinar to help businesses in PJM understand the increasing importance of DERs in providing grid resiliency during winter months and learn how they can get paid for providing load relief to the grid. To watch, please click here.
Dann has specialized in PJM Demand Response for more than 10 years. As CPower’s Executive Director of Market Development for the PJM market, he is responsible for keeping hundreds of customers with thousands of sites up-to-speed on market conditions, energy prices, program particulars, and regulatory issues in the ever-changing PJM demand response market.
Mike is Market Development Director at CPower. He has extensive experience in analyzing and developing market rules in multiple energy markets across North America. His career has focused on advocating for demand side resources participation in the energy markets as a reliable low-cost option compared to traditional generation assets.