Energy Efficiency

CPS Energy awards $1.5 mil in DR incentives to schools

Public power utility CPS Energy in 2018 awarded $1.5 million in demand response incentives to 16 school districts in its greater San Antonio, Texas, service area.

The demand response program provides incentives to businesses that make electrical load reductions during high demand events or on days when energy usage is at its highest.

Schools are particularly good candidates for demand response programs because their energy use peaks from mid- to late afternoon and loads drop after school hours and during the summer months when demand is highest. In addition, minor adjustments can be made quickly and easily to schools’ heating, cooling and lighting systems without negatively affecting the operation of the facilities.

The Judson Independent School District, longest tenured major school district in CPS Energy’s demand response program, for instance, has earned about $1.4 million in incentive payments since 2013.

“By participating in the program, we receive year-end incentives and rebates that save thousands on energy costs, allowing more funds to be invested into resources for students,” David Oehler, Judson’s district energy manager, said.

“Judson is kind of unique,” Joe Jones, demand response key account manager at CPS Energy, said. “They recycle the money they earn into other programs,” such as energy efficiency measures. Judson was a “pioneer” in participating in the utility’s demand response program, and that led other school districts to follow suit, Jones said.

There are 14 school districts in CPS Energy’s service territory. Across those districts, the utility has a roughly 95% participation rate in its demand response programs.

CPS Energy’s demand response program is part of the utility’s Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan (STEP) that aims to save 771 MW by 2020. In addition to improving air quality in the region, the program’s goals include eliminating the need to build another large power plant. So far, the STEP program has resulted in a 620 MW reduction in peak demand since 2009.

“The idea behind the STEP Program is to reduce 771 MW through a mix rebates and low cost or no cost programs. We want all customers to get a benefit from them. We want to make sure it is easy for customers to participate,” Justin Chamberlain, manager of demand response and energy efficiency at CPS Energy said.

So far, the utility has invested $562 million in the program to reduce 620 MW, and year-over-year CPS Energy has earned positive results from the program both financially and through opportunities for customer engagement, Chamberlain said.

Overall, CPS Energy has been authorized to invest $849 million in the program, but expects to come in about $100 million less than that because “some of the programs are very effective for us,” Chamberlain said.

Included in its STEP program, CPS Energy also has demand response incentives for residential customers, such as a program that offers a $150 discount for a programmable wi-fi thermostat.