2008 Corporate Responsibility Report

How we are creating a smarter foundation for a sustainable future

Demand Response

Occasional heat waves and storms, plus the periodic need for power plant repairs and maintenance, can sometimes temporarily strain California’s electrical supply. When demand is high and supply is short, especially on hot summer days, there is an increased risk of power interruptions for our customers.

PG&E’s customer demand response programs provide a fiscally and environmentally responsible way to respond to these spikes in energy demand. It is simple economics—building and maintaining enough power plants to satisfy occasional and temporary peaks in demand would impact customer rates and the environment. PG&E’s programs offer incentives to businesses that volunteer and temporarily reduce their electricity use when demand could outpace supply.

Last year, PG&E began offering a new demand response program called PeakChoice™. When electric system demand is expected to be high, PeakChoice customers are notified and asked to implement the energy savings measures they have designed specifically for their business. Customers have dozens of choices for customizing their demand response program options, and incentives vary based on those choices. Initial customer enrollments last year totaled 10 MW in potential demand reduction, and we have set a goal of 36 MW for 2009.

While we rely primarily on the participation of commercial and industrial customers to achieve large-scale demand response savings, PG&E also enables its residential customers to participate.

For example, PG&E’s SmartAC™ program provides a simple and voluntary way for households to participate in demand response. During extremely hot summer days, PG&E can dispatch a radio signal to SmartAC devices installed in customer homes, slightly reducing the amount of electricity the air conditioners use without disturbing customer comfort. More than 93,450 customers enrolled last year, and PG&E hopes to enroll up to 400,000 customers by the summer of 2011, which will reduce approximately 305 MW of energy load when the state needs it most.

Looking Forward with the Next Generation

PG&E teamed up with the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center and graduate students from Stanford University to help explore home area networks—systems that connect digital devices within the customer premise and can potentially be tapped to help control personal energy usage.

Six graduate student teams, led by Stanford University design school professors, took part in a problem-solving effort that focused on the future of home area networks for PG&E and its customers.

In addition to undertaking research, the students were introduced to PG&E’s pioneering work on building a “smart energy web,” as well as possible student internships and future positions within the company. The successful collaboration is part of PG&E’s larger effort to engage a future generation of workers in the energy industry.