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Cool Under Pressure: Honeywell Helps Utilities Keep the Power Flowing


With fall around the corner, the thoughts of many likely turn to changing leaves and crisper temperatures. However, summer’s not quite over, and it will inevitably take a few more last gasps before it fades into the next season. That means a few more weekends to savor the summer sunshine — and likely some more weeks of air conditioning use.


It’s during these warmer periods of air conditioning and cooling equipment usage when a delicate balance is happening in the background for power providers. Specifically, widespread cooling equipment usage can put stress on power lines and transformers, which go into overdrive to keep electricity flowing uninterrupted. 


Chances are this chain of events goes largely unnoticed by most as air conditioners provide relief and comfort in cooler confines. But behind this seemingly simple “on-and-off equation” are efforts by power providers to keep energy supply and demand in check.


One key strategy for utilities to maintain a balanced grid involves helping residential, commercial and industrial customers manage when and how they consume energy.  Also known as demand response, this strategy involves temporarily shifting energy usage when temperatures soar during the hottest times of the day and energy demand increases as a result. Customers participating in demand response efforts simply trim energy use by an incremental amount during these “peak” periods. These measures are temporary, and go unnoticed from a comfort and business operations standpoint, but collectively can help make an impact when it comes to maintaining grid stability.


Honeywell — through implementation services and technology — is enabling utilities and distribution companies to manage resources more efficiently with demand response programs. Among these successful programs are two deployed by San Antonio-based CPS Energy to keep the grid balanced and to help make sure energy is available across the city. For more than a decade, Honeywell has worked with the utility on these demand response efforts, which now include more than 50 commercial and industrial sites and more than 55,000 homeowners.


Technology and customer engagement has played a central role in CPS Energy’s demand response program success, including the use of smart thermostats. Participating homeowners receive free Honeywell smart thermostats that can receive signals from the utility to make slight adjustments to temperature set points during peak use periods. These changes help provide the needed energy reductions while maintaining customer comfort. CPS Energy recently hit a significant milestone with the installation of its 100,000th smart thermostat—demonstrating the program’s long-standing success, which hinges on customer participation.


The thermostats have proved to be an enticing incentive for participation — all while enabling the successful implementation of demand response strategies that play a key role in helping the utility manage its energy resources and meet the needs of the community. As a result of these efforts, CPS Energy has saved 42 megawatts of energy, which is equivalent to the power needs of nearly 8,400 homes. Customers, in turn, can reap the benefits of a Wi-Fi programmable thermostat, including the ability to access, monitor and control their indoor temperatures from anywhere with an internet connection — along with reduced heating and cooling costs.


While summer doesn’t last forever, it can be counted on for fun memories — and warmer weather, even in September. Strategies like demand response and reliable technology are helping utilities “weather” the energy demand highs and lows to keep customers happy and comfortable.