Demand Response Program Design Preferences of Large Customers: Focus Group Results from Four States

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This report presents findings from focus groups conducted with customers from six electric utilities on how to make demand response (DR) programs more "customer-friendly" and accessible for large commercial and industrial electricity users. Participants were asked how to make demand response programs easier and more appealing for customers to participate in and moderate their electricity use and to provide their suggestions on program designs or features that would be attractive. In 2004, demand response potential was about 20,500 MW or 3% of total U.S. peak demand (DOE 2006). Federal and state policymakers, utilities, and ISO/RTO, and customer representatives have recognized that increased load participation and response is a crucial element of well-functioning and efficient wholesale and retail electricity markets. To facilitate that objective, this research was undertaken to ask target participants in the large commercial/industrial market whether, and what, changes in the design of current demand response programs might improve customer participation. To that end, this research effort gave target customers an open forum to discuss their perceptions about the core elements of demand response programs that were more likely to attract their participation. The Nexant team conducted six focus groups with 45 customer representatives from 41 different commercial and industrial customers in Arizona, Delaware, New Jersey and Illinois during a twelve month period (November 2004 – November 2005). The focus group findings indicate that industrial and commercial electric customers want to tailor their participation in DR programs in ways that better reflect the technical and operational needs of their businesses. If DR sponsors offer customers more flexible DR programs, this could expand participation within these customer segments and increase the benefits of DR for the sponsoring organization, the power grid, and wholesale electric markets. However, to effectively design this new breed of DR programs, DR sponsors and policy-makers will have to better understand the costs and benefits of DR in three specific ways: 1) quantifying the value of differing DR options, 2) building and managing DR portfolios, and 3) expanding technical and customer service offerings.

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