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Making the Most of a Demand Response Event

December 23, 2014 | 2 comments

Demand response programs reward commercial building owners for reducing energy usage during times when electrical grid demand is highest. Instead of generating more power to keep up with peak loads, utilities ask participating buildings to make immediate reductions to energy use when needed – whether the adjustments are automated or done manually.

Schneider Electric says that demand response programs in commercial buildings can earn back anywhere from 5% to 25% of annual electricity costs. But not only does a demand response program prevent strain on the electrical grid and reduce utility bills from electricity companies, it may also avoid brownouts and blackouts.

If your commercial building participates in a demand response program, having an energy reduction plan in place makes it easier to respond to utility requests. Although the list of possible energy conservation strategies is long, there are several measures that can be incorporated without negatively impacting occupant comfort or productivity. Energy-saving actions can range from dimming lobby lights to adjusting thermostats on supermarket refrigerators.

Here are a few energy reduction strategies you may want to consider incorporating as part of your demand response program …

Make adjustments to HVAC systems. Consider turning thermostats up a few degrees in summer and down a few degrees in winter to reduce load. Chillers may also be turned down, and variable speed drive controls can be adjusted to reduce load from fans and pumps. It may also be possible to lower air-handler airflow if the system allows you to safely do so.

Dim or turn off overhead and task lights. Open window blinds to make use of available daylight. If there are concerns about glare or discomfort due to solar heat gain near windows, consider investing in high-performance, low-e window film. It can help regulate interior temperatures all year long by reducing solar heat gain in summer months and preventing thermal heat loss through windows in winter months.

Shut down non-essential office equipment, vending machines, signage, and digital displays. As long as displays and signage aren’t part of your mass notification or emergency communications efforts, you’ll be able to reduce electricity load by turning them off completely.

Part of your demand response program should also involve communication with tenants and occupants. Explaining the timing of energy reduction strategies can help eliminate confusion, and prevent maintenance calls about system malfunction.

Do you participate in a demand response program? What energy reduction strategies does your building use?


  1. James Ferguson
    January 3, 2015

    You are conflating energy management with demand response.

    Shutting down non-essential equipment is energy management. Demand response is where rescheduling of *necessary load* is undertaken to match market price conditions.

    So, while Window film can be a really great solution, it is an investment in energy management, not a short term market price response.

    Hope this is informative.

  2. Vista
    January 5, 2015

    Hi James, thanks for your note! You are correct – window film is definitely not a short-term market price response. Window film can, however, help reduce overall load on the HVAC system, playing a part in reduction strategy (and making loads lower than they were originally). Or that’s how we view it, anyway! Appreciate the feedback!

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