Streetlights May be the Next Bright Idea in Demand Response

Originally featured in Intelligent Utility.

By Charlie Nobles, Director of Product Marketing, Lighting Solutions, Sensus

It’s the middle of winter and the sun sets before most of your customers leave work at 5:30 p.m. It is dark and cold when your customers get home.

They flip on the lights, crank the heat, turn on the TV, start cooking dinner and use more electricity than you can provide.

Demand response can be costly, with limited options to reduce loads. Instead of purchasing electricity from neighboring utilities to meet winter peak demand, keep your customers’ lights on by dimming the lights outside.

Sensus-logo.pngIt adds up: streetlights can take up to 40 percent of a city’s energy load. Control smart streetlights remotely to distribute this energy to areas that need it most.

Dim the lights for peak shaving.

The Internet of Things has made it possible to adjust your home thermostat while you travel, set your DVR while you run errands and use an app to close your garage door. It also makes it possible to control your utility’s lights remotely. Lighting control solutions give you the power to manage your streetlights from anywhere at any time. They can even run on your current automated metering infrastructure (AMI) network. Utilities can use this to their advantage to improve demand response.

Currently, streetlights come on at full wattage as the sun starts to set, even if it is not dark enough to need bright lights. If you setStreet_light_against_a_streak_of_pink_sunset_cloud.jpg your lights to come on when you actually need them and increase brightness as it gets darker, you could save big on energy.

At dusk or at dawn, you could drop wattage during a peak demand event by 15 to 20 percent. The corresponding drop in light intensity is virtually impossible to notice, but it will have a big impact on your ability to meet demand.

If you can trim the lights, you can shave the peak.

How to get started.

This is a simple demand response tool for utilities in to implement in the winter. However, there are several steps that need happen to take this from a possibility in demand response to a reality.

You will have the most success getting started with this program if you follow these steps.

1. Find the overlap: Determine if there is an overlap between peak demand times and when the lights are on. During the summer, the lights come on too late to make a difference in your energy savings. But in the winter, lights are often on exactly when peaks are set – at dawn and dusk.

2. Integrate your lighting and AMI: First, your utility should find a lighting control solution that can easily dovetail into your AMI program. Then, you will have the capability to control or dim the lights and measure your load-reduction in real-time.  

3. Aggregate your load: Make sure your lights are a bundled load so that you can turn them off all at once. 

4. Work together: Often, lighting departments and metering departments do not combine their functional needs. Break down the silos to generate real energy savings for your utility or municipality. 

5. Secure your lighting program: According to the Identity Theft Resource, more than 175 million records were exposed in the first half of 2015. Security is critical to keep hackers from tampering with your lights. Encrypt your lighting control just as you encrypt your AMI network. 

6. Lean on a partner for help: There are companies today that can support your lighting control solutions, data analytics solutions, AMI and security all under one roof. This saves your utility time and money so you can focus on what matters most – keeping your customers happy. 

See the benefits.

On cold winter mornings, your customers used to wake up, turn on the lights, take a hot shower, run the hair dryer and strained the grid. Not anymore.

Shorter days can be a good thing – you just have to use them to your advantage. If you dim the lights at dusk and dawn, you can have enough energy to keep everyone cozy and warm during the dark days of winter.

Smart lighting used as a demand response tool opens up a world of possibilities to save energy, time and money. You just have to flip the switch on lighting control.

Charlie Nobles is director, lighting solutions at Sensus.

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