Power Industry Is Embracing Automated Demand Response Standard

By Tariq Samad and Ed Koch

Automated demand response connects utility needs with customers’ resources and is a win-win for both parties. Peak loads are being shaved, grid reliability is being enhanced, the share of renewable generation footprints is increasing, utility costs are dropping, and customers—commercial, industrial and residential—are seeing reductions in costs as well. Meanwhile, a comprehensive standard for automated demand response is rapidly gaining popularity.

Open Automated Demand Response (OpenADR) is a family of specifications and standards driving progress in automated demand response. It provides an open and standardized way for electricity providers and system operators to communicate demand response signals with each other and with their customers using a common language over any existing IP-based communications network, such as the Internet. As the most comprehensive standard for automated demand response, OpenADR has achieved widespread support throughout the industry.

The original OpenADR 1.0 specification was developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and released in 2007 by the California Energy Commission. Standards organizations such as the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP), the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and the Utility Communications Architecture International Users Group (UCAIug) began further development of the specification immediately afterwards. In 2010 the OpenADR Alliance was formed as an industry consortium to foster further development and deployment of automated demand response into the marketplace. The Alliance released the first OpenADR 2.0 profile in 2012 and continues to develop additional profiles that can be implemented and deployed. Today, the Alliance numbers close to 100 members that include utilities, system operators (including all U.S. independent system operators [ISOs]), technology suppliers and research institutions. The membership is international, with engagement from companies and other organizations from America, Asia and Europe.

At this time, OpenADR is going through the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) process, with the expected outcome that the two defined profiles of OpenADR 2.0 will be entered into the SGIP Catalog of Standards. In parallel, the OpenADR Alliance is working with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) with a mutual objective to develop an international automated demand response standard.

"Demand response" refers to some smart grid entity intentionally interacting with demand-side entities to influence their consumption of electricity—their load profiles—during select time periods. In most cases this entails causing customers to lower their consumption of (or shed) electricity, but in other cases it may instead involve increasing their consumption. There are many reasons why grid-side entities may wish to influence a demand resource’s load profile including price fluctuations, peak management, load shifting, grid reliability and asset management. Utilities and ISOs have used demand response for many years to achieve a careful balance between electricity generation and consumption.

Traditionally demand response interactions were manual. Utilities or ISOs sent e-mails to or called human operators at customer sites; the operators would then execute control of the demand side loads. With the proliferation of more advanced control systems there has arisen the opportunity for the grid entities to interact directly with their customers’ load control systems instead of human operators. Thus automated demand response can now be effectively used with all the inherent benefits of automation, including more reliable, faster and cheaper responses to the grid entity’s demand response signals.

Automated demand response requires both the grid- and demand-side entities to install infrastructure to support the exchange of signals. The grid entity puts in place infrastructure capable of communicating demand response signals to their customer’s automation equipment and the customer installs equipment capable of receiving these signals. Furthermore the signals are typically relayed to existing facility control systems where demand response strategies have been pre-programmed to execute the appropriate load control. Depending on the type of customer facility, such control systems could be as simple as a thermostat in a residence or as sophisticated as an industrial process control system. The grid-side entity will verify the signal has been processed by getting feedback on the facility’s consumption via a smart meter or the control system, for example.

Demand response comes with a number of benefits and requirements, including:

  • Keeping the customer in control. Demand response, as practiced today, can be contrasted with direct load control, which refers to the switching or controlling of devices in facilities directly by the utility. Direct load control is useful in many cases (for example, both utilities and homeowners benefit by having the utility cycle central air-conditioning units or raise thermostat set-points when peak demand is high). Assumption of the facility owner’s or operator’s control of their resources by the utility is increasingly being questioned, however, especially as automated demand response provides an attractive alternative. With automated demand response, the customer can respond to signals indicative of desired levels of demand response as opposed to being purely prescriptive as with direct load control.
  • Supporting aggregation and aggregators. Large commercial and industrial facilities can participate directly in demand response. But for homes and small commercial facilities, this is typically not possible either because of the size of their loads or cost-effectiveness. Automated demand response enables participation of smaller loads in the marketplace by supporting hierarchical architectures with various types of intermediaries such as aggregators that can serve as gateways to smaller loads.
  • Enabling varied and complex signaling. A utility’s needs for demand shaping in customer facilities can vary dramatically. With automated demand response, a utility can use a variety of instruments to shape a facility’s load profile, ranging from incentives to explicit load dispatches. Incentives can include dynamic prices, giving customers a market signal to shave peak use or shift consumption from critical periods. Demand needs can also be communicated flexibly: as dispatches in advance or in real time; as percentages or absolute amounts of response; with or without specification of ramping rates; to request decreases as well as increases in consumption; and to target certain classes of assets or the facility as a whole. Automated demand response can thus be customized to the utility’s as well as the customer’s needs.
  • Supporting ancillary services. A relatively new area for automated demand response, but one that is rapidly growing in importance, is ancillary services—including frequency regulation and spinning and non-spinning reserves. These require fast response, often two-to-four seconds from the time the signal is sent to when the energy resource reacts. Metrology, in the form of real-time telemetry, may also be needed at fast time scales. As an example, vehicle-to-grid projects are under way that are connecting battery-powered cars and trucks to the grid, with rapid, small-signal charging and discharging that provides frequency regulation and operating reserves for greater grid reliability.
  • Supporting integration of renewables. As more and more renewables are integrated with the grid the generation side of grid operations is becoming more varied and unpredictable. This requires that more assets be used in some automated fashion to keep the grid balanced. Automated demand response represents a way for grid operators to avail themselves of more demand-side resources for this purpose. Such resources are typically cheaper and more responsive than corresponding generation resources that may also be used.

Information on the OpenADR and the Alliance is available on the OpenADR Alliance website. More information on automated demand response, including an extensive repository of papers and case studies, can be found on the Demand Response Research Center at the LBNL website.




Tariq Samad, an IEEE Fellow, is Corporate Fellow with Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions and the Vice President for the American Automatic Control Council. He is a board member of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) and a former member of the IEEE Smart Grid Steering Committee. He served as president of IEEE Control Systems Society in 2009, and is an editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Systems and Control, to be published by Springer in 2014. He earned a B.S. degree in engineering and applied science from Yale University and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.



Ed Koch is Senior Fellow in Honeywell Building Solutions and is a co-founder of and chief technology officer at Akuacom, Inc., a leader in automated demand response software, which Honeywell International acquired in May 2010. He served as chairman of the Open Automated Demand Response (OpenADR) Standards Working Group at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and helped drive the development of the OpenADR protocol, a key smart grid interoperability standard. Prior to founding Akuacom, he was co-founder and CTO of Coactive Networks, and before that, he managed the Automotive Systems Department of Navteq. He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Florida.