The idea seemed so simple: “We’ll continually find the best emerging energy-efficiency technologies and incorporate them into our demand-side management programs.” We don’t have a record of anyone saying exactly that, but we remember numerous demand-side management (DSM) program visionaries saying similar things during the industry’s early years. In order for utility DSM programs to continually grow and overcome the inertial drag of ever-rising codes and standards, utilities need to constantly add new technologies to their portfolios. Like so many good ideas, this one turned out to be much harder than anyone envisioned it was going to be.

To actually incorporate emerging technologies into their program portfolio, utilities must do numerous things well. They must troll for new technologies and filter out the ones that are most promising. They must determine whether those promising technologies are likely to be cost-effective, reliable, sufficiently supported by vendors, successful in the marketplace, high enough in quality, and scalable. Often, the technologies are also tested either in the field or laboratory to demonstrate their savings potential. All of these things must be done in a manner that coordinates the activities of numerous people and communicates findings to numerous stakeholders. In short, incorporating emerging technologies into DSM programs presents many logistical and management challenges.

At E Source, we like to observe utility emerging-technology programs and identify best practices. It’s not clear to us yet that we’ve found a single organization that does everything well, but we’ve found numerous utilities that seem to have good ideas about how to address one or more program components. At this year’s E Source Forum, we’re going to put on a session where we present representatives from three such programs. Titled “From Pipe Dream to Program,” this session features three speakers from utilities whose emerging-technology programs contain innovating elements.

Dave Bisbee, of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), will talk about how SMUD came up with new tools and processes for screening and cultivating emerging technologies.

Jim Jerozal, of Nicor Gas, will explain how his company came to collaborate with a major technology institute and incorporate a software tool to reveal the marketability of emerging technologies.

Edwin Hornquist, of Southern California Edison (SCE), will present how SCE restructured its emerging-technology program to overcome several challenges.

This session will take place on Wednesday, October 1, at 1:30 p.m. There will also be other Forum sessions focused on energy end-use technologies. Topics for those sessions will include smart thermostats and electric, gas, and black-box technologies. Visit the 2014 E Source Forum web page and click the Sessions tab to view the conference agenda. If you work in a utility DSM or demand-response program and you focus on technology development and management, you won’t want to miss this event.

Contributing Authors

Board Member, Senior Fellow

Jay Stein is focused on expertise development, research skills development, quality control, new product development, and technology assessment....