Guest Interview with Jeremy Donnell (Pacific Gas & Electric)

   How long have you worked at PG&E?
   I have spent the last seven years working for PG&E. The first two years I worked as an outside
   consultant to the utility focusing largely on litigation and utility operational process
   improvement. I have spent the last five years as an employee of the utility. I began in Energy
   Procurement working on supply side issues such as QF/CHP contracting, analysis of renewable
   shaping and firming transactions, and litigation relating to the 2000-2001 California energy
   crisis. I later joined the Customer Care organization as the Principal Strategic Analyst for
   Demand Response Measurement and Evaluation (M&E). 

What is your role at PG&E?
I am currently Manager of Demand Response M&E. My team is responsible for all forecasting relating to PG&E’s seven DR programs as well as our time varying rates (time of use and critical peak pricing). This includes both short-term (day-of, day-ahead, and week-ahead) operational forecasting for use by PG&E’s procurement department and the California ISO, as well as long-term forecasting (up to eleven years ahead) for use in resource planning, cost effectiveness, and other regulatory proceedings. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of my role as an expert on DR performance is the many different arenas in which I am given the opportunity to participate. My team is very active in the regulatory space, providing testimony, comments, and analysis in rate cases, funding applications, and other proceedings. We participate in DR program design, cost-effectiveness policymaking, electric vehicle load research, etc. Since DR is a demand-side resource that behaves very much like a generator and is generally treated similarly to other supply-side resources, we also play a role in resource adequacy and long-term planning. This broad array of responsibilities affords me the opportunity to work with many internal and external parties, which I find very rewarding.  

What challenges have you faced as a DR professional within your organization and within the industry?
The main challenge I am currently facing as a DR forecaster is combating the perception that DR is not a reliable resource, a view commonly held by those who do not work on DR programs. Many believe that the value of DR is limited by the difficulty of predicting behavior-based load response. This perception is particularly prevalent for programs that do not use an enabling technology. While there is an element of truth to this criticism, I firmly believe that it is vastly overstated.

As an industry, we need to focus on addressing the three main drivers of this criticism. First, we need to refine and improve our forecasting capabilities. This is particularly true of operational forecasting. Second, consistency and predictability of load response needs to be a primary consideration in program design, customer recruitment, and program operations. Third, we simply need to do a better job of educating those who may not be familiar with DR. For example, it is easy to understand why system planners and operators, whose primary concern is reliability, would be naturally suspicious of DR as a resource. It is our responsibility as DR professionals to help others better understand what DR is, what it is capable of, and, just as importantly, what it is not capable of. In my experience, having these thoughtful, balanced conversations is tremendously helpful for building understanding and trust in this valuable resource. 

What changes have you seen in the industry as it relates to DR over the last few years?
DR is in the midst of a transition from its traditional role as a peak shaving resource to becoming a tool that is capable of providing a wide range of benefits. Just like any other product, if DR is going to continue to have value in the marketplace, it will need to continuously evolve to meet the needs of the market. For example, in California we are taking a careful look at how DR can provide much needed flexibility to a system that is integrating intermittent renewables at a rapid pace. This includes both looking at whether existing programs can be modified to provide these ancillary services, as well as implementing pilot programs designed to meet these needs. This kind of forward thinking, which is going on all over the country, is what will help DR weather the test of time and remain relevant.  

For more information on PG&E, click here.

© 2016 Solar Electric Power Association    ::     1220 19th Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C., 20036    ::   contact us

Periodic updates on news & events related to demand response and smart grid.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software