- A new Senate bill to encourage natural gas demand response programs includes $10 million for pilot programs aimed at reducing market price volatility.
- The bill directs the Secretary of Energy, working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to establish a five-year natural gas demand response pilot program utilizing the "latest demand response technology from the energy sector."
- Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Angus King (I-ME) proposed the legislation, similar to a previous bill proposed in the last Congress. A portion of last year's bill, including a DOE study, was signed into law in June.
Gas demand response and non-pipes solutions have cropped up in California and New York, but so far they are not nearly as widely used as electric demand response. But they have the potential to generate significant savings, say analysts, which could be particularly useful in the Northeast where gas supplies are tight.
A statement from Whitehouse's office cited "preliminary analysis" by the Brattle Group, which suggested home heating gas demand response programs in New England could save 40 million cubic feet of gas on a peak day — about 5% of the average power sector demand for gas in the region during the winter months.
"Response programs have proven they can save energy and cut costs for consumers, which is essential in states like Maine that are saddled with some of the highest energy costs per capita," King, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement.
The bill would have the "twin benefits of addressing climate change by reducing emissions of natural gas, a powerful greenhouse gas, and benefit ratepayers by reducing customer bills," Jerry Elmer, senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, said in a statement.
The American Gas Association, which represents gas utilities, says it offers members access to forums to share the results off demand response programs.
"Natural gas utilities are exploring pipeline and non-pipeline programs to improve reliability and service to customers," spokesman Jake Rubin told Utility Dive in an email. "Demand response technology for natural gas utilities is still relatively new, but several companies are initiating pilot programs in their service territories."
But it "is too early to assess their efficacy at this time," Rubin added.
Consolidated Edison has been experimenting with gas demand response to address potential shortages in New York, and recently was forced to stop taking applications for new gas connections in some parts of its service territory. State regulators responded by approving $223 million for efficiency and electrification efforts.
Southern California Gas has also utilized gas demand response, following a leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility that left the region facing potential shortages. More than 9,200 customers signed up, allowing the utility to control almost 10,800 Ecobee and Nest smart thermostats.