Resources: Watertown Municipal Utilities: A Consert Case Study
Watertown Municipal Utilities has provided electric, water and natural gas services to the South Dakota town of the same name for over sixty years. They currently serve more than 10,000 residential and 2,000 commercial customers.
Located along the Big Sioux River, Watertown, “South Dakota’s rising star,” is the fifth largest city in the state and home to over 21,000 residents. Covering an area of over 25 square miles in the northeastern portion of the state, the city experiences average high temperatures ranging from 20 degrees Fahrenheit in January to 80 degrees in July. The annual average temperature is 42 degrees Fahrenheit with just below 22” of precipitation.
Watertown Municipal Utilities has provided electric, water and natural gas services to the community for over sixty years. They currently serve more than 10,000 residential and 2,000 commercial customers with the primary mission of keeping rates low and serving their customers well.
Watertown Municipal Utilities purchases electricity from Missouri River Energy Services (MRES), a not-for-profit joint-action agency governed by the members it serves. MRES provides electric energy and services to 61 member municipalities that own and operate their own electric distribution systems. The mission of MRES is to provide its members with reliable, cost-effective, long-term energy and energy services in a fiscally responsible and environmentally sensitive manner. Base load rates are very low compared with much of the United States.
MRES has a history of leadership in employing demand-side management strategies. Load management was one of the first formal demand-side strategies employed, with several members having installed systems in the early 1980s. A few of the members have been recognized as pioneers in adopting this technology. Since that time, over half the communities within the MRES membership have independently taken it upon themselves to install load management systems.
Due to the local climate, Watertown experiences both summer and winter peaking of electricity demand. The monthly capacity charge from MRES is based on its system energy peak for that month. This peak charge is measured monthly (for all 12 months) with seasonally-adjusted pricing for summer and winter peaks.
With a strong focus on customer service and a desire to manage capacity charges from MRES, Watertown Municipal Utilities sought a solution that would balance the needs of its customers while helping to manage operating costs by reducing peak loads. The benefit to MRES is support for their continued mission to nurture the pioneering spirit of its members to adopt new technologies that provide clean, reliable, cost-effective energy and reduce the need for additional generation resources.
In April 2012, Watertown Municipal Utilities entered into a pilot agreement with Consert. Approximately 100 residential customers were selected to participate in the program, which utilized Consert’s Virtual Peak Plant™ (VPP) technology. Consert’s VPP provides a real-time, intelligent load management system that creates measurable and verifiable capacity, dispatchable energy and cost savings for utilities, while providing pilot customers with the ability to manage their highest energy-consuming devices without loss of control and minimal loss of comfort.
Watertown Municipal Utilities selected a local installer, trained and guided by Consert, to install the system in select homes, which included a smart meter with Consert’s communicating gateway, ZigBee-enabled communicating thermostat and Consert’s device controller for control, measurement and verification of high energy-consuming devices such as the air conditioner and water heater.
After installation, consumers accessed a secure, online portal to set up energy profiles that fit their personal living schedules. Pilot participants could then “set it and forget it.” For example, temperatures were automatically set higher or lower when leaving home in the morning and re-adjusted prior to returning at the end of the day, depending on the season. Water heaters were also turned off when not needed, resulting in energy savings that may have otherwise been wasted. Participants also changed their program preferences at home or remotely via any web-enabled mobile device.
In exchange for the ability to manage their highest energy-consuming devices (HVAC, water heater, pool pump) and reduce electricity consumption, pilot participants allowed Watertown Municipal Utilities to initiate curtailment or conservation events that manage these devices.
Utilizing the 3G wireless modem in Consert’s Gateway, Watertown Municipal Utilities initiated conservation events in real-time by resetting customer thermostats higher or lower by up to four degrees, or switched off water heaters and pool pumps for short periods. Participants always maintained control and had the option to be excluded from a conservation event from their thermostat or user portal.
By reliably managing loads precisely when needed, Watertown Municipal Utilities benefitted from Consert’s Virtual Peak Plant by shedding and shaping peak demand, and receiving instantaneous feedback to confirm the event results.
Conservation Event Results
Extrapolating these results suggest that if Watertown Municipal Utilities were to adopt Consert’s solution, 625 homes would represent 1 MW of available, clean capacity, on average. Following are the results of two conservation events demonstrating average load reduction for pilot participants.
What participants had to say:
Keeping customer satisfaction a top priority, Watertown Municipal Utilities conducted a survey of pilot participants to determine their satisfaction with the pilot program.
According to the survey, 79% of Watertown Municipal Utilities’ customers were satisfied with the program overall. Comments included, “I don’t have to remember to turn up or down the thermostat,” and “I can monitor my usage and adjust where I feel I would like to so that I use less energy.” In addition, 70% of customers surveyed believe the Consert Solution saved them money on their electric bill and 94% believe it is important to participate in the program so Watertown Municipal Utilities can better manage its energy resources. According to one pilot participant, “I believe after a year of using this program that we will see a track record of savings.”
Convenience of remote operation via web-enabled devices was also a positive factor as expressed by participants:
“[I like] remote [access] via the web. [The] option to change settings while away and have the house ready upon returning from vacation.”
“I like being able to control the system when not at home and having settings that kick in automatically (i.e. cool when we get home from work).”
Pilot participants benefit from Consert’s solution by having greater control over their highest energy-consuming devices, which typically result in energy savings of over 10%.
A benefit of Consert’s solution to Watertown Municipal Utilities is the extensive analytics available for precise measurement and verification of results from conservation events. To test the ability to reduce peak demand, Watertown Municipal Utilities utilized Consert’s VPP to initiate seven conservation events between June and September.
Load reduction values were obtained using meter data and a baseline analysis. Comparison values came from a baseline that was created from average usage of three similar days during the previous two weeks. The baseline was then adjusted by an offset factor to account for temperature and other variables and load shed was calculated by observing the difference between event day values and baseline values.