On Tuesday, September 6, record-breaking temperatures in California drove record demand for electricity throughout the state, resulting in an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) from California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and the possibility of blackouts. Peak demand hit an all-time high of over 52 gigawatts (GW).
PG&E, California’s largest power company, notified more than half a million homes and businesses that they could lose power for up to two hours as temperatures reached nearly 116 degrees. These emergencies have become more common in California as extreme weather has become more prevalent, exposing grid vulnerabilities as the state undergoes a transition to a cleaner generation mix. CAISO’s EEA3 alert– the highest level emergency alert – indicates that energy supply reserves cannot meet anticipated demand. During this alert, utilities can be instructed to initiate controlled rolling outages to limit energy demand and stabilize the grid before more widespread, severe blackouts occur.
The GridPoint team was monitoring the emergency and immediately called upon our network of grid-interactive buildings throughout the territory to reduce demand. Our network has been participating throughout the demand response season and is uniquely positioned to respond in these types of emergencies quickly and reliably. The California governor’s office issued historic proclamations, allowing for the use of back-up generators, both diesel and gas, to be utilized to prevent grid collapse. The Emergency Load Response Program (ELRP) was also dispatched, calling upon every grid-connected building, vehicle, and battery to do its part to keep the lights on.
Through these widespread demand response initiatives, energy consumers throughout California were able to reduce demand between 4-9 p.m. on September 6, to support the grid and avoid catastrophic blackouts. The level three emergency was reduced to level two later that evening and demand response continued to play an integral role in keeping the lights on throughout the remainder of the heatwave.
CAISO system demand on September 6, 2022
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Through Open Automated Demand Response (OADR) certified technology, GridPoint immediately responded to these emergency conditions. Within 20 minutes of the emergency signal, GridPoint’s automated load curtailment was underway across the state. As the high-risk conditions persisted, GridPoint continued to work with customers to provide instantaneous, reliable, consistent load back to the California grid on-demand. GridPoint’s curtailment strategies enabled participating business customers to continue operating as usual while providing virtual capacity back to the grid.
Demand response has typically focused on residential and industrial sectors, but GridPoint’s approach enables commercial buildings to be utilized as a grid resource as well. These recurring power disruptions along with rising costs, energy mandates, and increased electrification are all trends putting the energy transition at the forefront of business stakeholder priorities. Being proactive about an energy strategy is not just best practice, it is becoming increasingly required for power reliability and business continuity.
GridPoint already had megawatts of load registered for demand response programs across California, all of which were dispatched four consecutive days in a row for in California’s largest utilities, including SDG&E, SCE, PG&E, SMUD, and LADWP.
Heat map of demand response events called across California
GridPoint also worked with customers to quickly enroll more sites in the state into demand response programs. Long-time customer, Walgreens voluntarily enrolled locations in addition to previously enrolled California sites that were already participating in demand response programs to help prevent an all-out disaster.
On Friday, September 9, GridPoint participated in the single largest dispatch in the company’s history for the Emergency Load Reduction Program (ELRP) with help from our partners Leap and Recurve. Overall, GridPoint dispatched sites across eight different programs. GridPoint delivered many megawatts of relief for the grid with preliminary data showing performance between 95%-120% against nominations. This high performance can be partially attributed to high levels of participation among customers with low opt-outs and partially to additional sites opting in during the emergency. Because demand response is fully automated for customers through GridPoint’s platform, participation is easy with minimal site impact. In total GridPoint participated in 15 unique events in CAISO territory and were dispatched for a total of 14.5 hours across four days of emergencies.
Averaged daily curtailment trend from 9/6 – 9/9
Walgreens Leading the Way for Demand Response
GridPoint’s success was due in large part to customers who permitted GridPoint’s demand response team to respond to emergency conditions with additional voluntary curtailment. The confluence of events that contributed to these emergency conditions will continue to happen as the United States energy grid transitions to higher quantities of renewable generation. Increased awareness, more common grid emergencies, and skyrocketing utility bills are all factors leading to more commercial demand response participation. This year we saw a 30% increase in customer participation in demand response and a 25% increase in enrolled capacity over last year in California.
Daily snapshot of event curtailment duration by utility territory
In 2022, GridPoint doubled the number of available demand response programs, diversified program types, and stacked incentives to provide greater customer value and promote engagement. Customers in California may have previously only been eligible for one or two programs, but now can participate in an average of six programs per location to customize participation and better fit their strategies to business requirements. GridPoint also develops custom demand response strategies by orchestrating assets within a building together to automatically curtail load while maintaining required comfort levels at the site. By breaking down barriers of participation for the commercial sector, GridPoint is creating a network of efficient, grid-interactive buildings that can be scaled quickly and called upon to manage grid conditions as-needed.