A Successful Case Study of Small Business Energy Efficiency and Demand Response with Communicating Thermostats
This report documents a field study of 78 small commercial customers in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District service territory who volunteered for an integrated energy-efficiency/ demand-response (EE-DR) program in the summer of 2008. The original objective for the pilot was to provide a better understanding of demand response issues in the small commercial sector. Early findings justified a focus on offering small businesses (1) help with the energy efficiency of their buildings in exchange for occasional load shed, and (2) a portfolio of options to meet the needs of a diverse customer sector. To meet these expressed needs, the research pilot provided on-site energy efficiency advice and offered participants several program options, including the choice of either a dynamic rate or monthly payment for air-conditioning setpoint control. Overall results show that pilot participants had energy savings of 20%, and the potential for an additional 14% to 20% load drop during a 100°F demand response event. In addition to the efficiency-related bill savings, participants on the dynamic rate saved an estimated 5% on their energy costs compared to the standard rate. About 80% of participants said that the program met or surpassed their expectations, and three-quarters said they would probably or definitely participate again without the $120 participation incentive. These results provide evidence that energy efficiency programs, dynamic rates and load control programs can be used concurrently and effectively in the small business sector, and that communicating thermostats are a reliable tool for providing air-conditioning load shed and enhancing the ability of customers on dynamic rates to respond to intermittent price events.