Sub-metering Your Main Meter – Thanks To An Assist From Your Demand Response Provider

Sub-metering your main meter is a fundamental start to developing a comprehensive corporate energy management strategy.  But since this takes time, money or one of the few utilities that offer this as a free service, many companies don’t yet have this visibility.

Unless by chance they’ve signed up for Demand Response.

One of the main compliance hurdles faced by Demand Response providers is proving to the utilities that they’ve reduced demand during DR events.  The ISOs need to confirm that the load reductions have been reached or exceeded and without that confirmation the DR providers don’t get paid.  So to track their reductions, DR providers typically install their own sub-meters at their customers’ main meters.  These sub-meters are connected back to the provider’s network operation, either through the customer’s internet or a cell phone, and enable the aggregation of performance data for the ISO across all of the providers customers.

Sub-metering doesn’t come cheaply, but the good news for DR providers is that they need only front the initial capital cost, as they can deduct these costs from future monthly customer payments.  (Not surprisingly, many prospective DR customers learn about their sub-metering costs only as they are signing their contract.)

Ironically, the technical infrastructure DR providers use to initiate customer load reductions (the ultimate reason they’re getting paid) is a little less sophisticated. It’s called outbound calling.  ”Hello, this is your DR provider calling, we’re having a demand event, can you please turn stuff off or turn on your generator?”  While there is a current effort to make this more automated (called the OpenADR initiative) the phone remains today’s technology of choice.

But the bonus for DR customers, on top of the their monthly DR payments, is new visibility to main meter 15-minute interval data.  Rarely before have corporate managers had easy on-line access to this intra-day, intra-week and intra-month graphical display of their consumption.  And guess what happens when they see it?

They ask lots of questions.

Which is a good thing.

A thesis for Enterprise Smart Grid is that this type of engagement is only the beginning of the process.  Main meter visibility leaves the management team asking for finer granularity on where consumption may be happening – which can be gained through additional sub-metering.  And finer grained visibility leads to the need for finer grained control, in order to manage down the consumption where it can be avoided.  And this visibility and control ultimately becomes integrated into the organization’s objectives, with on-going measurement, more intelligent procurement based on newly reduced consumption and proactive energy efficiency upgrades for assets that warrant an upgrade.

So perhaps by signing up for DR customers gained something much more valuable than their monthly DR payments?

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