Demand response contributes more than just sustainability to K-12 public school system

May 01, 2017

The Virginia Beach City Public School System is on a mission. At the heart of that mission lies a commitment to education, which you’d expect from the largest school division in southeastern Virginia. What you might not expect is how money earned from participating in demand response programs is helping fund the VBCPS’ drive toward academic excellence.

Ranked the fifth best large school division in the entire nation by GreatSchools, Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) has earned a reputation for fostering a culture of outstanding academics.

That’s not all the school division has earned lately.

Since 2014, VBCPS has also earned over $250,000 through demand response and demand management. The increased revenue has helped pave the way for a sustainable future of energy efficiency and academic achievement.

Compass to 2020
VBCPS’ Charting the Course initiative was launched in 2015 to set the vision of school division over the next five years. The strategic framework includes four goals – high academic expectations, multiple pathways, social-emotional development, and culture of growth and excellence – and multiple strategies to guide this important work. This focus on excellence at VBCPS extends into their drive towards energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives across their entire K-12 campus system and facilities.

VBCPS understands the importance of conserving resources and protecting our environment. Among the nearly 70,000 students and approximately 15,000 employees are the often unique and innovative conservation efforts that can be found in every office and school in the division. As a testimony to this commitment, they have embraced Demand Response participation with support at all levels of the organization, from the office of the president to the facilities personnel, faculty, and students.

The Opportunity
VBCPS has been participating in the PJM Emergency Capacity DR and Energy Efficiency programs with CPower since 2013. They participate through the State Contract E194-1378 administered by the Department of Mines Minerals and Energy (DMME), which has joined forces with CPower to bring enhanced Demand Response services to Virginia.
VBCPS has 85 schools, 13 of which were registered in 2016 to participate in the Emergency DR program. The peak load of the 13 school campuses is 9.6MW of which they curtail 8MW when called upon to reduce load during times of grid emergencies. Since 2014, their efforts have brought in earnings of over $250,000, which they have used to fund additional efficiency projects to support campus-wide sustainability goals.

Consistent Success
VBCPS staff at each participating school takes ownership of their Demand Response participation and have consistently over-performed each season thanks to:

  • Excellent cross-functional preparation and pre-season on-boarding with their facilities personnel and the CPower team
  • End-to-end communications/notifications exercise and load drop test conducted by CPower allows the VBCPS team to identify potential issues (if any) and take actions to fix them
  • Effective curtailment planning strategies to optimize load reductions with minimal impact on campus staff and students
  • Complete buy-in, approvals and support from the VBCPS school division management
  • VBCPS facilities team has sharp focus on setting up a detailed process for participation based on each school’s timecards and student schedules/events
  • Team expectations clearly; communications plan includes command central (radio, email, telephone, text) with notifications as early as possible
    Regular meetings and clear internal communications (via newsletters, posters etc.)
  • Team expectations clearly; communications plan includes command central (radio, email, telephone, text) with notifications as early as possible
  • Regular meetings and clear internal communications (via newsletters, posters etc.)
  • Every year pre-season, the VBCPS team proactively updates their Demand Response informational guide and set of procedures
  • With a total of 8 staff in Central Command and 30 across the other schools; they maintain 2-3 trained staff per school, with 1 person handling a specific event at each school and the rest at back -up in the case of vacations/illness. Moreover, experienced staff members act as mentors/trainers for others that are new to the program.

Challenges and Lessons Learned
Some initial challenges included managing data from multiple utility meters as well as different building automation systems (BAS). However, the methods used above with site-specific planning allowed VBCPS to overcome the hurdles. Some sites have an Easy Button and use an automated approach while some utilize a more detailed hands-on approach.
In the end, clear communications and reliable equipment/metering are key factors for consistent performance. For instance, there was an emergency event called at the end of the season in 2013, where VBCPS delivered per their commitments even though school was fully in session. The schools also got the added benefit of earning energy payments from that event.

Forward-Thinking towards a Sustainable Future
Additionally, in 2014 the team pioneered the State of Virginia Energy Efficiency effort with lighting upgrades across the division footprint. They embraced the energy efficiency program, connecting CPower with their contractors to get the required information of qualified projects, and ultimately will earn close to $100,000 for their efforts.

Looking to the future, VBCPS has consistently added load reductions to their commitment to support grid reliability. They have added 8 more schools with an additional 2.8 MW of curtailable load to participate in the 2017 PJM performance season program, and are also exploring the PJM Economic DR program. Four new lighting upgrades from the spring of 2017 were submitted to the PJM Energy Efficiency program. The team at VBCPS are a powerful asset to demand response. By providing their operating procedures as a starting point to other participants, they have served as mentors for other schools – providing encouragement to their peers so they feel confident to take advantage of the program and optimize energy earnings and savings at other K12s across the Commonwealth.

Contact Leigh Anne Ratliff or anyone on CPower’s PJM team at www.CPowerEnergyManagement.com/markets/pjm-interconnection-contact

Published by

Leigh Anne Ratliff

Leigh Anne is an account executive for CPower, serving federal, state, commercial and industrial organizations in Virginia. She has 15 years in the energy industry and 9 working with the State of Virginia Demand Response contract.

Leigh Anne Ratliff

Leigh Anne is an account executive for CPower, serving federal, state, commercial and industrial organizations in Virginia. She has 15 years in the energy industry and 9 working with the State of Virginia Demand Response contract.