Image courtesy of Flickr user Mandiberg

Active energy management means indoor temperatures may float a few degrees. Our free two-day advance notice for PDP events helps occupants prepare.

How do you decide what to wear tomorrow? What if your building manager gave you fashion advice?

We recently met a Bay Area facility manager who does just that. When he knows a peak pricing event is coming, his email to occupants includes the recommendation to dress for warmer indoor temperatures. It’s a smart move, and one he credits with helping him raise set points with minimal complaints.

Let me pause here and slay a sacred cow: demand management affects occupant comfort. Although most facilities find substantial curtailment in lights and fountains, most also find the economics are attractive enough and the days few enough that raising set point two degrees makes sense. Sporadic hot calls are not too high a price to pay, and occupants are understanding if you have clearly communicated the environmental benefits of demand management.

This week will test those assumptions for PG&E customers. In an unprecedented move, PG&E is calling six four consecutive work days of peak pricing: Friday of last week, plus every day of this week. Time to stock up on Hawaiian shirts. (Update: due to a drop in temperature, PG&E retracted the event days on Thursday and Friday. Interestingly, our forecasting tool never thought they should have called these in the first place. Maybe PG&E should sign up for our alerts!)

So how do you know these days are coming? Like many utility programs, California utilities’ peak pricing programs combine temperature-driven forecasts with discretion about adverse “load impacts.” One of the surprise hits of our new demand management service has been the ability to predict PG&E’s Peak Day Pricing event days. PG&E declares an event when the temperature in five cities (San Jose, Concord, Red Bluff, Sacramento and Fresno) exceeds a trigger level. PG&E provides an alerting service, of course, but typically these warnings go out the afternoon before the event day, too late to provide much notice. Our alerts go out days in advance of likely PDP events, so managers have more time to warn occupants and prepare.

The big caveat is PG&E can call PDP events for discretionary reasons, so you still need to pay attention to the day-ahead alerts sent out by the utility. If you are interested in being on our distribution list for PDP event day alerts, learn more and sign up here. Best of all, the service is entirely free.

About Tom Arnold

Tom Arnold is co-founder and CEO of Gridium. Prior to Gridium, Tom Arnold was the Vice President of Energy Efficiency at EnerNOC, and cofounder at TerraPass. Tom has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. When he isn't thinking about the future of buildings, he enjoys riding his bike and chasing after his two daughters.

2 Responses

  1. Joel Weingarten

    Let’s not be too hasty to slay that sacred cow. Human comfort is a complex calculus of temperature, relative humidity, air speed, clothing level, activity level, and season of the year (all as per ASHRAE 55). Your idea here is a good one and is one of the levers, but only one. There are a few (but only a few) energy optimization software solutions out there which are firing on all levers — not only during DR events and PDP, but continuously — and are dynamically reoptimizing every few minutes.

    • Tom Arnold

      Joel:

      Thanks for the comment. If you have such a system, or the budget for it, it sounds awesome. There is some very cool technology coming (yours and others) that can really help.

      In smaller buildings if you say ASHRAE, someone may hand you a kleenex under the mistaken assumption you sneezed. For people without a building management system or direct digital controls, or the budget for an optimization system, active energy management is only really possible if you roll with the punches a teeny bit. We thought this was a cool way to get ahead of the game.

Comments are closed

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