Grid-Interactive Electric Water Heaters Become Focus for Peak Load Alliance

August 13, 2013 by Jeff Shepard

The Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA) has announced the formation of PLMA's Grid-Interactive Water Heating Interest Group (GIWH-IG). Grid-interactive water heating is the emerging consensus term describing high-speed, two-way communication between the electric water heating appliance and the electric utility, balancing authority, independent system operator, or aggregation entity. When equipped with a grid-interactive control, a large-capacity, electric thermal storage water heater becomes a "battery" for storing electric energy and has the ability to follow locational marginal prices, better integrate renewable energy, and provide fast regulation service.

"This new PLMA interest group will provide a focused platform for information sharing and market development efforts in order to move grid-interactive water heating technologies from pilot project to market introduction,” said PLMA Chairman Paul Tyno of REGEN Energy. "The topic might not be as sexy as electric vehicles or web-enabled thermostats, but PLMA sees a critical market need to significantly and rapidly raise the visibility for this niche opportunity and its potential to deliver energy storage and smart grid optimization.”

"The benefits of this important technology aren’t well understood, as evidences by recent Department of Energy efforts to restrict or ban large-capacity electric resistance water heaters,” said Connett. "This group will show that electric resistance water heaters can be a very useful tool to optimize energy use and increase efficiency in the home and on the electric grid.”

Gary Connett, the PLMA Interest Group Leader, is Director of Demand Side Management and Member Services for Great River Energy, a not-for-profit electric generation and transmission cooperative which provides wholesale electricity to 28 member distribution cooperatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Those member distribution cooperatives distribute electricity to approximately 650,000 member accounts – or about 1.7 million people.

Great River Energy is a utility leader in peak load management and demand response. The cooperative has more than 352,000 controlled loads in member homes and businesses. Controlling these loads on a hot summer day allows Great River Energy to reduce peak demand by more than 300 megawatts, or 13 percent.

"We are now beginning to explore grid-interactive load management that would allow Great River Energy to better utilize our renewable energy resources and interface with the wholesale energy market. As a leader of this PLMA Interest Group, I intend to share my knowledge and skills to help the organization address the challenges and opportunities in the rapidly changing energy landscape.” added Connett.