Groups Launch Pilot to Demonstrate New Approaches for Demand Response in Chicago

Finding savings and efficiencies to use demand response to meet year-round energy needs

October 6, 2015
Catherine Ittner, (512) 691-3458,
Jim Chilsen, (312) 263-4282,
Paula DuPont-Kidd, (866) 756-6397,
Frank Shuftan, (312) 603-3323,

(CHICAGO – October 6, 2015) Environmental and consumer advocates, along with Illinois’ regional electric grid operator, today launched an innovative pilot project to demonstrate how demand response can continue to support grid reliability year-round and lower electricity costs for Chicago businesses, institutions, government, and homeowners. Demand response is a cost-effective, energy-saving tool that pays customers to reduce electricity use in response to the grid’s needs.

The pilot program, called the Combined Capacity Asset Performance Project, is a collaboration of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), The Accelerate Group, Citizens Utility Board (CUB), and PJM Interconnection. The project will show how strategically combining resources can allow demand response to continue to compete with other sources of power in the market under new performance requirements.

“Demand response has demonstrated its potential to cut peak electricity demand, help balance the grid, and save customers money. The project offers an inventive way to preserve and grow this valuable resource in the PJM market,” said Andrew Barbeau, President of The Accelerate Group and senior clean energy consultant for EDF. “The collaboration will serve as a strategic model for buildings, which will be able to combine their demand response potential to enter the market where they wouldn’t be able to participate on their own.”

Each year, PJM manages a capacity auction to buy enough power supply resources to meet the highest forecasted peak energy demand for the area it serves, including all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia. In PJM’s wholesale power markets, demand response resources compete directly with other forms of energy. Thus, demand response participants can bid into the auction, offering the amount of electricity they commit to reducing and receiving the same payments as power companies to meet electricity needs.

Under PJM’s new performance requirements, qualifying sources of energy must respond any time there is a critical need. Previously, demand response resources could choose to participate only during summer months, for example, by reducing air conditioning use. Yet PJM’s experience during the 2014 Polar Vortex demonstrated the need to rely on sources of energy – fossil fuels from power plants, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and demand response – that could be counted on year-round, no matter what.

“Demand response has proven to be a very flexible tool that meets a number of needs for the grid,” said PJM senior vice president of Markets, Stu Bresler. “In addition to helping lower prices and reducing pressure on the generation fleet during periods of peak use, demand response can be used by states and local communities to meet their public policy objectives.”

In the face of these updated requirements, this innovative pilot will show demand response participants new approaches to allow them to provide the year-round availability the grid needs. The project will bundle variable, renewable energy, like wind and solar, and the demand response potential of multiple buildings into combined capacity assets that are bid in the market. These energy resources can work together in real-time during emergency events to meet their electricity commitment.

Over the past several years, EDF and CUB have been working closely with commercial office buildings and residential buildings in Chicago to help them save energy and costs, as well meet the electric grid’s peak needs through demand response, energy efficiency, and energy storage.

 “Facing our energy challenges requires Illinois to seek innovative ways to reduce electricity demand,” said CUB Executive Director David Kolata. “Programs like this are a win-win-win for Illinois. They’re good for our power grid, our planet, and our pocketbooks.”  

Cook County Government, representing over five million people throughout Illinois – including Chicago and surrounding suburbs – will be a lead participant in the project. Cook County has pledged to evaluate up to 45 of its government buildings for their ability to participate in the capacity performance market year-round using demand response.

“I am committed to reducing Cook County Government’s Greenhouse Gas emissions by 80 percent,” Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said. “I have also made a commitment to taxpayers to make fiscal responsibility and innovative leadership hallmarks of my administration. That is why I am proud that Cook County is taking a leading role in the Combined Capacity Asset Performance Project. This project will identify changes needed to ensure grid reliability, provide us with expertise on developing a long-range energy curtailment plan for 45 of our buildings, and support our continuing efforts at energy reduction and cost savings for taxpayers.”

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Environmental Defense Fund (, a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and our Energy Exchange blog

CUB is Illinois’ leading nonprofit utility watchdog organization. Created by the Illinois Legislature, CUB opened its doors in 1984 to represent the interests of residential and small-business utility customers. Since then, CUB has saved consumers more than $20 billion by helping to block rate hikes and secure refunds. For more information, call CUB’s Consumer Hotline at 1-800-669-5556 or visit CUB’s award-winning website,

PJM Interconnection, founded in 1927, ensures the reliability of the high-voltage electric power system serving 61 million people in all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. PJM coordinates and directs the operation of the region’s transmission grid, which includes 62,556 miles of transmission lines; administers a competitive wholesale electricity market; and plans regional transmission expansion improvements to maintain grid reliability and relieve congestion. Visit PJM at