(ORLANDO) – The nation’s 50 million residential electric water heaters collectively represent a significant – and vastly underutilized – energy storage resource capable of leveraging substantial environmental and cost benefits according to new research commissioned by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA) and Great River Energy (GRE).
This finding from the global economic consulting firm The Brattle Group was announced today (Feb. 10, 2016) at the launch of an initiative designed to promote growth in a novel, community-based approach to energy storage, dubbed “community storage.” By aggregating distributed energy technologies and home appliances, electric cooperatives are developing community storage to increase energy efficiency, better integrate renewable energy resources onto the grid, and reduce customers’ monthly electric bill.
One such community storage program managed by Minnesota-based generation and transmission cooperative Great River Energy has been able to store a gigawatt of energy each night by controlling the electric resistance water heaters of 65,000 end-use members.
“At Great River Energy, we believe there’s a battery hidden in basements all across our service territory,” said Gary Connett, director of member services at Great River Energy. “When the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, large capacity water heaters can be enabled to make immediate use of that energy to heat water to high temperatures. The water heaters can be shut down when renewables are scarce and wholesale costs are high.”
Even in regions heavily reliant on coal and natural gas to generate electricity, the Brattle research shows that consumers have options for saving money on their electric bills and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with their water heating. Consumers can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 30 percent using their water heater as a thermal battery. Consumers can reduce their CO2 emissions by more than 50 percent using heat pump water heaters.
These same consumers will be enabling integration of clean, renewable resources. Further, the emission reductions of community storage will compound as more consumers participate and the electricity sector transitions to cleaner fuels and generation technologies.
“Co-ops have been controlling large water heaters for decades in order to reduce demand at peak times, which also reduces members’ electric bills. A community storage program using advanced water heaters allows us to do even more: we can store energy, we can optimize the power grid by shaping demand and we can integrate more renewable resources,” said Keith Dennis, NRECA’s senior principal for end-use solutions and standards.
“Smart, grid-connected electric water heaters represent a promising possibility for a more efficient, more economic, and ultimately lower-emissions electricity system,” said Robin Roy, director of building energy efficiency and clean energy strategy at the NRDC. “Given that water heating represents more than 15 percent of household energy use, this is a great opportunity to cut energy waste and also the emissions from electricity generation.”
“The National Community Storage Initiative will focus attention on the immediate opportunity for national, regional and local market development efforts to demonstrate the potential of ‘behind-the-meter’ electric storage technologies,” said Rich Philip, manager of products and services at Duke Energy, and PLMA chairman.
The Brattle Group conducted the research on behalf of the four sponsoring organizations.
About The Brattle Group’s Study
The research examines the economic and grid benefits of controlling three different types of water heaters (80-gallon electric resistance, 50-gallon electric resistance, and heat pump water heaters) for peak shaving, thermal storage, and real-time fast response to supply fluctuations. Researchers modeled these program designs using 2014 data from the PJM and MISO markets.
The Brattle researchers also modeled these programs using projected prices and energy resources in MISO in 2028 to determine the economic and environmental potential of electric water heaters to provide energy services to the grid in the future. The report NRECA-NRDC-PLMA report, “The Hidden Battery: Opportunities in Electric Water Heating,” is authored by Brattle Principals Ryan Hledik and Judy Chang, and Associate Roger Lueken.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives serving 42 million people in 47 states. Follow us on Twitter @NRECANews.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
The Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA) was founded in 1999 as the national voice of demand response practitioners. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to the principles of demand side management, load shaping, and the integration of energy efficiency and demand response. Its membership represents a diverse collection of utilities, curtailment service providers, service and technology companies, industry consultants, and consumers. PLMA strives to be an advocate of critical energy management initiatives – providing a community of expertise within a rapidly changing energy landscape.
Great River Energy, Maple Grove, Minn., is generation and transmission cooperative providing wholesale electric service to 28 Minnesota distribution cooperatives. Those member cooperatives distribute electricity to approximately 655,000 member-consumers. Great River Energy and its members offer a robust demand response program, and are able to control up to 350 megawatts of load. Great River Energy is the second largest electric power supplier in Minnesota and one of the largest generation and transmission cooperatives in the nation.
Tracy Warren (NRECA); 703-517-3411; email@example.com
Pat Remick (NRDC); 202-289-2411; firstname.lastname@example.org
John Pulley (NRECA contact at Distributech); 703-625-2314; email@example.com
Therese Lacanne (GRE); 612-804-4532; tlacanne@GREnergy.com
Ed Thomas (PLMA); 707-652-5333; firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephanie Schwartz (The Brattle Group); 617-864-7900; Stephanie.Schwartz@brattle.com
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