Demand Response Program FAQs

FM logo


What is the Demand Response Program?

The demand for energy during extreme weather conditions, such as uncomfortably hot summer days, sometimes can outpace the power grid’s ability to supply it, which can lead to local and/or regional brownouts or blackouts.  The grid in our area, historically, has been stable, however, there are numerous high profile and high impact examples of blackouts occurring in other densely populated areas-- New York, California, and Texas.    

The Demand Response Program is an initiative that is spearheaded by regional transmission organizations (RTOs) aimed at increasing grid stability during periods of high energy consumption. Demand Response, a voluntary program,  asks large wholesale customers such as UMD  to reduce their electricity use (load) during periods of high power demand or when the reliability of the grid is threatened. So, instead of producing more energy at great expense to consumers and the environment, grid operators are able to offset the imbalance through strategic customer partnerships. Participation in this program allows grid operators more flexibility to balance supply and demand among its customers, forestalling critical shortages and avoiding high distribution charges from other vendors.

PJM Interconnection is the RTO that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity 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.  For over a decade, the University of Maryland has partnered with PJM to participate in our region’s Demand Response Program.  While the program has had minimal visible impact on campus, in regards to energy reliability, cost savings and environmental benefits, behind the scenes, Demand Response benefits are significant.

What is the University of Maryland’s obligation as a Demand Response Program participant?

The university’s Demand Response contract includes active participation in PJM’s electrical peak demand reduction program. During a peak usage event, typically during the summer, the university will be requested to reduce electrical consumption. These events are rare, and usually occur during mid-afternoon and early evening and do not last longer than 6 hours. 

Does the campus community need to take any action during a Demand Response event?  

In the past, the university notified the campus community during a Demand Response event to request on-campus students, faculty and staff to switch off or unplug nonessential items around their dorm or workplace.  However, due to innovation and upgrades to Facilities Management Engineering & Energy’s automation efforts with chiller plants and other building systems, FM staff is able to largely automate the university’s curtailment efforts.  

While the campus community no longer needs to respond to calls for action during a Demand Response event, we encourage all Terps to make sustainable energy practices part of their daily routine. 

Below are a few best practices to consider. For more information, visit SustainableUMD.   

  • Turn off and unplug all appliances while not in use
  • Turn off lights when you leave a room
  • Keep your electronics on a low brightness setting to save energy

How will the campus community be impacted during a Demand Response event?  

The impact on campus is minimal. Our automated energy reduction efforts during a Demand Response event have been designed to minimize the impact on normal campus operations.  

Generally, UMD’s summer loads are composed in large part by the energy used for keeping our facilities at a comfortable temperature and humidity level, therefore, our load reduction efforts are also focused on that aspect, along with non-essential lighting.  While there may be small fluctuations in room temperatures or light brightness levels, the effects are limited.  The slight discomfort we may experience during an event by reducing energy consumption will reduce the grid operator’s need to institute rolling brownouts in order to keep the power on. 

Why does the University of Maryland participate in the Demand Response Program?

There are three key benefits associated with the university’s participation in the Demand Response Program:

  • Our participation is helping to prevent the electric grid or system from a total collapse resulting in a local or regional brownout or blackout.  We are not only helping our own campus community by participating in the Demand Response Program, but we are being good neighbors by contributing to the greater cause.
  • Conservation of energy will result in a reduction of our impact on the environment and contribute to the university’s critical sustainability goals.  
  • UMD’s agreement with PJM provides a financial benefit to the university by being compensated for the reduction of a set amount of the university’s electric load.  

How long does the program last?

Under the university’s current contract, our participation runs through the summer and concludes on May 31, 2022.  Our ability to participate in the program is re-evaluated after each program year.

The university has participated in the program, off and on, since 2006.