Following Hurricane Irma, Demand Response Stepped Up Amid Efforts to Restore Power
When talking about demand response, it’s hard to ignore the valuable role it plays in providing resilience to our nation’s electric grid infrastructure. This is true whether market conditions cause an emergency situation on the grid, a solar eclipse temporarily disrupts power generation, or a natural disaster threatens critical infrastructure.
We saw demand response put into action earlier this month after Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm, ripped through the Southeastern US and left significant damage in its wake. In the United States, the west coast of Florida, including the cities of Tampa and Naples, were left with widespread power outages. Long-distance power transmission lines and distribution-level grid infrastructure are particularly vulnerable to the strong winds and flooding that come with a hurricane, and very often, a problem in one part of the grid causes a chain reaction of negative consequences on others. In the aftermath of a hurricane like this, the grid can face difficulty maintaining the delicate balance of supply and demand required to provide a reliable power source to customers. That’s where demand response comes into play.
Although the storm itself knocked out power to thousands, new challenges emerged after multiple generation plants needed to come offline for maintenance. With crews working around-the-clock to repair grid infrastructure and get homes and businesses back online, demand for power naturally spiked. However, the availability of supply to meet this increased demand was limited, further complicating efforts to restore a reliable power source.
Tampa Electric (TECO) dispatched its entire demand response portfolio, including 40 megawatts managed and operated by EnerNOC, to help keep demand in line with available supply. Businesses throughout the region responded by curtailing non-essential energy usage, or in some cases, reducing their reliance on the grid by switching to onsite generation. These short-term adjustments in power demand had a big impact on the entire region, as TECO officials were able to keep supply and demand in balance with its customers’ needs as restoration efforts continued.
The economic impact of an event like this can be staggering. Hurricane Irma, for example, is expected to cost Florida somewhere in the range of $25-$50 billion, according to the Florida legislature’s chief economist Amy Baker. Beyond the physical property damage and impact on tourism, prolonged power outages can cause major losses in productivity that have a greater economic impact the longer they last. The added resiliency that emergency demand response provides in these situations can help prevent an already difficult situation from getting worse.