OpenADR – the technology vying to become a standard for automating demand response systems around the country – has a big new user.

Honeywell, the controls giant, will use an $11.4 million Department of Energy smart grid grant it won last month to build an OpenADR-based system with utility Southern California Edison.

That's according to Sila Kiliccote, program manager at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which has spent the past three years developing OpenADR (see Demand Response: The Standards Race Begins?).

The Honeywell project seeks to automate the utility's Critical Peak Pricing program, which offers commercial and industrial customers lower rates and credits for turning down their power use during the few hot summer days when demand is at its highest, Kiliccote said Monday. About 700 commercial and industrial customers are to participate.

LBNL is in discussions with other control system vendors, as well as utilities such as the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Seattle City Light, about using OpenADR, she said. Utility Integration Solutions is working on source code and a toolkit for deploying OpenADR more broadly, set to be ready by March next year.

Demand response accounts for about 41 gigawatts of power use deferred around the country, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But that barely taps the country's potential 188 gigawatts of peak power demand reduction that could be harnessed through demand response, FERC has reported.

In SCE's case, the utility sees the potential for cutting the need for 1,700 megawatts of new peaker power plants, Larry Oliva, the utility's director of tariff programs, told the Wall Street Journal.

Right now, demand response can be a high-tech or a low-tech affair. While some demand response aggregators such as EnerNoc and Comverge use digital communications and controls to turn down power, other programs rely on email, radio, text messages, phone calls or alerts on public websites to get the power-down word out to facilities (see Comverge's Home Demand Response: Pagers First, Then Smart Meters).

OpenADR is meant to give utilities a standardized way to move demand response into the high-tech realm, Kiliccote said.

The technology is already being used by SCE, as well as California utilities Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric, to manage about 70 megawatts of demand response capacity, Kiliccote said.

San Rafael, Calif.-based Akuacom has developed a demand response automated server (DRAS) to handle the automation. Typically that involves using public Internet connections to bounce OpenADR signals between utilities and customers, either using the DRAS server or software for clients with more sophisticated building control systems, she said.

One tricky aspect of using digital communications to turn down factory lines and office air conditioners is security. Simply put, most facilities don't want to open their building automation system firewalls to commands coming from the outside, Kiliccote said.

OpenADR has gotten around that problem by setting up servers at customer sites that "poll" the network to search for OpenADR commands, she said. That's like inviting approved messages in, rather than trying to screen all calls.

EnerNoc uses a similar method for its PowerTalk system, an automated demand response technology based on Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), the standard for instant messaging (see Instant Messenger of the Smart Grid).

Right now, OpenADR is the automated demand response standard named by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal agency developing standards for smart grid deployments (see Smart Grid Standards Roadmap Unveiled).

But EnerNoc has asked NIST to consider XMPP for inclusion as an automated demand response standard as well, said Terry Sick, vice president of product development and engineering. XMPP could offer some advantages in speed over the OpenADR system, he suggested.

Kiliccote noted that PG&E has shown in tests that OpenADR can turn down a building's power in less than a minute – well within the 10-minute timeframe that the state's grid operator, CalISO, requires for so-called "non-spinning reserves" to back up grids when peak demands are looming.

Utilities, as well as the grid operation entities that also manage demand response programs, are under increasing pressure to adopt automated systems. They're also under pressure to connect variable pricing schemes, such as critical peak pricing, and demand response – a function that OpenADR and PowerTalk both provide.