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Demand response: a win for you, the environment, and the grid

Demand response programs are opportunities for consumers to take an active role in lowering their electric bills, reducing stress on the electric grid, and cutting pollution. Sounds like a good deal. But what are “demand response” programs?

At their core, all demand response programs incentivize consumers to shift their electricity usage away from “peak” times—when electricity demand threatens to outpace the available electricity supply. For example, a hot summer afternoon or a cold winter morning.

By choosing to put off energy-demanding chores until off-peak times, like running the dishwasher overnight or doing laundry early in the morning, consumers help reduce demand. But what does reducing demand do?

For one, it helps lower your power bill. Utilities often offer bill credits or lower rates to consumers who successfully participate in demand response programs. For example, participants in ComEd’s Hourly Pricing program save an average of 15 percent on the supply portion of their bills. But shifting usage doesn’t just save you money. Demand response lowers the cost of electricity in wholesale markets, too, meaning lower rates for everyone.

Power grid reliability also benefits from these programs, leading to fewer power outages. And they help protect the environment. During peak demand times, “peaker” plants come online to help meet the extra demand, even if it’s only for a few hours a year. These plants are often polluting fossil fuel generators, so reducing peak demand also means you reduce pollution.

You may not realize it, but there’s a lot of opportunity to participate in demand response. See what options your utility offers: 

  • ComEd’s Hourly Pricing and Ameren’s Power Smart Pricing
    • These programs charge customers a supply rate that changes hourly, instead of the standard price that changes only a few times a year.
  • ComEd’s Peak Time Savings and Ameren’s Peak Time Rewards
    • These two programs reward participants with bill credits when they reduce electricity use during certain “peak” savings events, usually hot summer afternoons when electricity demand is highest. These are the easiest demand response programs and CUB recommends them for most anybody. 
  • ComEd’s Central AC Cycling program
    • Through this program, ComEd sends signals to your home to “cycle” the flow of power to your cooling unit (i.e. to turn the cooling on and off) at peak times of energy usage across ComEd territory. Cycling is only done when needed, and it will occur on specific days for limited periods of time. Many program participants have noted that they haven’t even noticed a difference in their homes during cycling events. For signing up, you get a monthly credit on your bill from June through September.