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Support for Demand Response:
Demand response, in simple terms, is about using less electricity when it matters the most to the electric power grid. This is beneficial not only for the stability of the grid but also to help manage and reduce the cost of electricity to the Cooperative and its members. This is especially true during peak power demand periods: those hottest summer afternoons and coldest winter mornings when more people are using record levels of electricity for cooling and heating and other needs—and power generators are working at maximum capacity to generate and fulfill those extreme power needs.
Blue Ridge Energy has always had various Demand Response programs in effect. In recent years, the Cooperative has taken an aggressive approach, both internally and in partnering with members, to control peak period demand and costs with the following efforts:
- Beat The Peak – a voluntary member engagement program to inform our membership through text and calls of peak demand days/hours and ask them to reduce electricity usage during these times. Members voluntarily sign up and participate by taking simple actions such as adjusting their thermostat, delaying use of laundry and dishwashers, turning off lights and grilling out rather than using the stove or oven.
- Brighter Future Solar facility – this large, utility scale facility is designed to provide 11 MW of solar to reduce peak demands on the Blue Ridge Energy system during summer hours. The Cooperative purchases the full output through a 25-year fully bundled power purchase agreement and worked with the owners to position the facility in an optimal location near a substation to manage interconnection cost.
- Community Solar – The Cooperative has constructed five community solar gardens across its system that produces 500 kW of solar energy. This output is designed to reduce peak demand during summer hours.
- Interruptible Power Service – Rate Rider offered to Commercial and Industrial (C&I) members to reduce load in their facilities during extreme peak demand and emergency situations.
- PowerShare Nonresidential Load Curtailment – Rate Rider offered to C&I members to curtail (reduce) load during extreme/emergency situations either by shifting their electricity needs to a generator or load reduction system inside their facility.
- Time of Use (TOU) rates/pilot program– These residential rate options are designed to allow members to benefit from a special rate if they shift their electricity usage to off-peak hours.
Blue Ridge Energy’s current wholesale power contract sets defined limitations on the amount of Demand Response that can be deployed throughout the system during summer peaks. Because of these limitations, Blue Ridge uses standard utility cost effectiveness test to determine the Demand Response program(s) that benefit the members through a reduction in wholesale power cost.
Support for Electric Vehicles:
For the last few years, Blue Ridge Energy has been monitoring the adoption and growth of electric transportation with a key objective of ensuring the Cooperative’s electric system is prepared to manage the increased energy needs required by EVs. We know we must continue meeting our goals of delivering the most reliable, affordable electricity possible for all our members.
To achieve these goals our initiatives focus on research and planning around 3 important topics:
- Avoid negative impact on system reliability
- Ensure no member subsidization
- Maximize benefit of off-peak kWh sales
Blue Ridge Energy is closely watching the national movement toward electric vehicles, which is growing primarily due to the push by federal and state governments to combat climate change and pollution. Our country is also moving towards greater energy independence. As battery technology and public charging infrastructure improves, EVs will likely become more attractive options for our members. EVs will also play a growing critical role in meeting carbon reduction goals for environmental health.
To prepare the electric system to meet local consumer EV demand and continue providing reliable, affordable energy, the Cooperative is collaborating with members who already own EVs and to identify members who are planning an EV purchase. The Cooperative is also working with local towns and cities to make more public charging systems available for local use as well as visitors to the area.
Because most EV charging occurs at home, we are studying and have implemented two options to offer off-peak charging rates through two pilot programs. Overnight EV charging will lead to a more efficient electric grid as it creates demand for power at a time when the grid has historically been the most underutilized and, therefore, electric power is less costly. Electricity is most expensive when demand is highest — on the coldest winter mornings or hottest summer afternoons. Spreading demand across nighttime hours can help fill demand valleys and create new revenue to keep rates lower for all members.
These two residential charging programs are:
- 25-meter residential TOU and EV Submeter rate pilot program
- Whole house time-of-use rate offering special rates during critical peak, off-peak and super off-peak periods. All electricity used by the home is metered under this rate.
- An EV-Submeter rate was created for members that only want special rates for energy associated with their electric vehicle charging. Members who go on this rate receive a $750 rebate if they install a Level 2 charger and have an electrician wire out a separate sub-meter.
For business and industry, the Cooperative has a Commercial TOU Electric Vehicle General Service Rate which provides rate incentives for strategically charging throughout various times of the day.
To support a Public Charging Infrastructure:
- The Cooperative owns and maintains DC Fast Chargers at its District Offices in Boone and Lenoir.
- The Cooperative owns and maintains a Level 2 charger at its Corporate Office in Lenoir.
- The Cooperative has worked with local governments listed below to utilize grant money to procure and have public Level 2 chargers installed in:
- Blowing Rock
- West Jefferson
Blue Ridge Energy will continue monitoring the EV market, local adoption rates and related technology and support in order to prepare our local power grid and accommodate electric demand. Our goal is also to meet demand, hold down power cost and member rates by leveraging EV growth with overnight and off-peak charging options for a more resilient, efficient power grid.