Demand Response: Saving Money for Education while Protecting the Environment
Alamo Colleges began participating in CPS Energy’s Demand Response program in the summer of 2013. This Demand Response program is one of CPS Energy’s strategies to achieve its 2020 goal of saving 771 megawatts of energy. The decision was made to take advantage of a significant rebate opportunity, which was a maximum of $120,600 in 2013 and is $130,650 in 2014. Rebates are based on the level of participation, and in 2013, Alamo Colleges earned rebates totaling $103,000. All of this money went back to Alamo Colleges.
While saving all of this money, Alamo Colleges is trimming its carbon footprint each time we participate in demand response. Our carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas emitted into the atmosphere from our energy use and purchasing decisions. This CO2 gas is produced and released into our air by burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to create the electricity we use. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a major contributor to climate change. Last year, Alamo Colleges prevented 19,291 lbs. of CO2 from going into the atmosphere from our demand response participation. This year, we are contracted to prevent up to five and a half tons of CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to taking 14 cars off the road, and would otherwise take 1,724 tree seedlings 10 years to naturally take out of the atmosphere.
Why Demand Response?
During hot summer months, electricity use reaches a peak, due primarily to high air conditioning use. On especially hot days, more power plants must be powered up on short notice to keep up with high levels of energy demand. This is costly, raising the electricity costs for everyone. If the demand is too high, even expensive energy generation won’t be able to produce enough electricity, leading to brownouts and blackouts. What’s more, the power plants powered up during this time are some of the dirtiest: natural gas and diesel, which pollute the air we breathe.
The CPS Demand Response Program contracts commercial energy users to reduce their energy use during these peak periods instead of firing up more power plants, and pays participants the money that would have gone to the peak power plants through rebates. Alamo Colleges joins Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, SAWS, Matheson-Trigas, and Supa Doors, among other San Antonio businesses, by agreeing to reduce approximately 1300kW during peak times—the equivalent of taking 650 houses off the electricity grid at once!
What is Demand Response?
The Demand Response season begins June 1st and lasts through September 30th. On any of these days, CPS can call a “Demand Response Event”, where participants are required to reduce their energy use by a pre-specified, contracted amount. The events will typically happen between 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., but can start as early as 1 p.m. and last through 7 p.m. Alamo Colleges is given a two-hour advanced notice detailing the duration of the day’s event. CPS can call on Alamo Colleges for a maximum amount of 25 times, totaling a maximum of 75 hours, in one DR season.
When Alamo Colleges receives the notification, each college must begin reducing the amount of energy it is using. The greatest energy user is the HVAC (air conditioning) system, which facilities adjust to use less energy. Facilities does NOT turn off the HVAC system to participate in demand response. Instead, the systems are throttled down to lower settings, reducing energy use.
Alamo Colleges’ participation in CPS’ Demand Response Program protects the environment by avoiding the burning of fossil fuels that pollute our air and water. At the same time, Alamo Colleges is not only racking up rebates, but is using significantly less electricity when its price is highest. This is just one of the ways Alamo Colleges is using its resources wisely to save money for quality education opportunities for each of our students, while protecting our environment.
How Can I Help?
During Demand Response events, the cooling power of our on-campus chillers is reduced, meaning it is easier for rooms and offices to warm up. If you notice the room warming, turn off unnecessary appliances (lab computers, unattended lights, overhead projectors, idling copy/printers) and minimize outdoor air infiltration by keeping doors closed as much as possible. All appliances produce heat that can make a difference over the course of a demand response event. Additionally, employees are welcome to use desk fans and to take advantage of our summer casual dress to keep cool.
The system is still cooling and rooms should never become unreasonably hot. If the room temperature reaches an unsafe temperature, please contact facilities right away.