Demand-response systems could be the future in Texas

Saving energy is important, which is why some people believe that energy companies should be able to control output and how much energy is available. Some energy companies do just that, using smart thermostats to control temperatures in homes or to cut back on appliance power during the day during high-energy use time periods.

In Central Texas, Austin Energy is doing this to help preserve the energy grid and prevent it from collapsing. According to one story, the company has the consent of 25,300 customers who allow the company to increase their homes’ temperatures a few degrees when the energy grid is at its peak usage levels.

What are demand-response technologies?

In this case, the company is using something called a demand-response technology. This kind of technology gives power companies the approval to adjust when power is used. For example, the company might cool homes more in the morning and less during the hottest parts of the day, essentially “precooling” during lower energy-use hours. Alternatively, the company might turn off your pool’s pump until the grid is under less stress.

Stabilizing power grids is important, but should a company be able to control the way people use power?

In Texas, fewer than 2% of air-conditioning systems are controlled with this kind of program. Power shortages in the state, however, could be prevented with their use. Many people agree with the concept, but there is concern about overreach and not being able to use power the way they want to in their own homes.

Demand-response technology could grow in importance

Uptake on this kind of technology is slow, but it’s valuable to learn about it. Depending on how the Texas energy grid changes in the future, demand-response technology could become more common and create unique legal challenges for power companies and individuals. Privacy issues are a concern, and for now, customers still get to decide if they want to participate in a program like this when one is available. Companies and individuals need to know their rights with this kind of technology, so it is used appropriately and doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights.