Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and Uplight today announced PG&E’s SmartAC™ Smart Thermostat program, implemented by Uplight, has surpassed 100,000 enrollments. This major milestone makes the program among the largest residential customer demand response programs in the country.
As California confronts climate change impacts including extreme heat events, demand response programs have become a critical and necessary tool for utilities to manage the grid to ensure reliability for their customers. Last year, the California Independent System Operator, which manages most of the state’s transmission grid, recorded an all-time peak load of 52,061 megawatts (MW) on a September day during a 10-day heat wave.
The 100,000 enrollment milestone demonstrates the important role that energy customers can play in shifting energy load to help balance the grid. Device enrollments in the Uplight-run SmartAC™ Smart Thermostat program have tripled from this time last year, and load shift per device has also increased by 60% on average. More participants combined with more load shift per device significantly increases the level of support for the grid during high demand periods. In a recent event, the program achieved an estimated 40 MW of load shift, which will be verified at the end of the season. That’s half the capacity of a typical 80 MW peaker plant and enough power for the instantaneous demand of 30,000 homes at once.
“The scale of this program has become an important resource in managing demand and improving grid reliability for PG&E customers,” said Jake Zigelman, PG&E’s Senior Director of Load Management Solutions. “It’s a win-win for our customers and the grid, providing real incentives to participate while helping stabilize the grid during times of high demand.”
“Grid resiliency is dependent upon strategic partnerships like the one between Uplight and PG&E, enabling consumers to play an active role in decreasing strain on the grid and rewarding them for their efforts,” said Luis D’Acosta, Uplight CEO. “We are proud to contribute to this major milestone and the growing number of enrollments.”
How the SmartAC Smart Thermostat Program Works
SmartAC Smart Thermostat is a voluntary program for customers who can be flexible with their air conditioning (AC) load during periods of high demand when the grid may become stressed. When extreme heat strikes and PG&E anticipates increased energy demand, the Smart Thermostat program automatically makes small changes to enrolled participants’ energy use, shifting AC usage outside of the hours of high energy demand, while still maintaining comfortable home temperatures. During these demand response events, enrolled customers always maintain control of their comfort and may opt out of any event simply by changing the setpoint on their thermostat.
Participants receive an incentive when they enroll with an existing smart thermostat, and significant discounts are also available for those who purchase a new, pre-enrolled thermostat through PG&E’s SmartAC marketplace, powered by Uplight. Discounts are applied at checkout through Uplight’s demand response pre-enrollment feature, making the process simple and seamless. Participants still enrolled at the end of the program’s season are eligible to receive an additional reward.
Customers can still purchase a new smart thermostat, enroll in the SmartAC Smart Thermostat program, and participate in an event before California’s summer season ends in late October. PG&E electric service customers with at least one Wi-Fi-enabled smart thermostat connected to central AC and Wi-Fi can enroll through the end of 2023.