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University's participation in Demand Response reduction yields relief for electric grid

Campus reduced electric load by 25 percent for five hours

The following article was written by Executive Director of Facilities Management Mike Gebeke and Director of Sustainability Annie Laurie Cadmus summarizing the University's recent participation in the Demand Response reduction on Sept. 11.

On a day when the city of Detroit experienced power outages because of generation capacity issues in the Eastern Electric Grid, Ohio University participated in an Emergency Demand Reduction Initiative.  

As an answer to the California rolling power blackouts approximately 10 years ago, a plan was put in place to help with the shortage of electrical generation capacity in the United States. The Demand Response Program was implemented to reduce the need to build new power plants and reduce the effects of the summer peak electric loads. Since the program was implemented, additional coal power plants have been taken off line further reducing electrical generating capacity. Our ability to reduce our electric load when required is directly responsible for the ability of the system to keep all customers on line while avoiding a power outage.

The information received from our partner, Energy Connect, commends us for our performance in response to the Grid Emergency. We were able to reduce our electric load for the entire campus by over 25 percent for five hours during one of the hottest days of the summer and a record load day for the Eastern Electric Grid in the month of September. This reduction was the difference between having power or experiencing rolling blackouts. As an added incentive to participation in this program, there is a payout for each megawatt of reduction. This event lead to an extra $74,260 payment in addition to a guaranteed $47,000 payment the University receives each year.  

The campus responded very well to the call for the reduction. This was the first time in history that a September reduction was necessary. The University has never had the entire campus community here during a reduction event. The efforts put forth by the campus equaled two megawatts of power reduction by the faculty, staff, students and visitors. These reductions allow Facilities Management to cycle air conditioning throughout the buildings on campus.  

The Emergency Demand Response Initiative illustrated the influence the campus community has in regards to institutional electricity consumption. Faculty and staff were able to assist the initiative by unplugging major office appliances, reducing or eliminating unnecessary lighting and conducting meetings without the use of technology such as PowerPoint presentations. Students in the Residence Halls participated by shutting off window air conditioners, turning off lights, unplugging appliances, and utilizing battery power on necessary technologies. Such practices made significant impacts in a short amount of time and could, potentially, pave the way for more long-term behavior changes that can sustain reduced electricity demand by Ohio University employees and students.

The results of the Emergency Demand Response Initiative on Sept. 11, 2013 are as follows:


In a letter from Energy Connect, Ohio University provided a “…textbook response to a Grid Emergency. Your team was able to reduce the electric load of the entire campus by over 25 percent for five hours during one of the hottest days of the summer and a record load day for PJM in the month of September… thank you very much for your participation in the program.  The contribution that OU makes literally does stand between having power or a power failure.”

Again, the Facilities Department and the Office of Sustainability would like to sincerely thank the University community for their efforts during the Event. You make it possible to be a responsible partner on the Eastern Electric Grid and reduce the need for additional power plants. This is demonstrating our sustainability mindset and leadership through our actions.