What is the load shedding definition?
The original definition for this term was a synonym for “rolling blackouts.” This practice involved shutting off power to large portions of the grid during periods of high demand. This was done to prevent a total blackout of the entire power system when user demand exceeded electrical supply. It was also done when transmission problems developed within the grid. While rolling blackouts inconvenienced the majority of residents and businesses in the area, they have historically proven effective in maintaining power supplies to vital emergency systems, infrastructure, and medical facilities.
In recent years, however, this term has developed an entirely new meaning separate from that of rolling blackouts.
The new load shedding definition emerged as a result of smart meters. Smart meters extend the functions of the electronic meter’s automatic meter reading capabilities in two directions. This allows a building management system to communicate directly with the electrical grid. As a result, information about pricing, usage, and grid conditions can be fed into the building management system. When peak demand reaches critical levels, facility managers can respond to that demand by relinquishing, or “shedding” a portion of their electrical load. This process has also redefined the nature of demand response. Whereas before it referred to grid operators shutting down portions of the grid, it now refers to building managers shutting power off to non-vital building systems.
This new load shedding definition represents a new way of using power. It takes curtailment to an entirely new level by allowing users to participate in the maintenance of the electrical infrastructure itself. This has implications that extend far beyond the relationship between the power company and the individual commercial customer.
Why is load response becoming an important part of an energy management strategy?
By empowering users in both the private and public sectors to participate in demand response programs, power companies are beginning to develop a smart grid. Like a smart meter, a smart grid operates in two directions. The existing infrastructure, which developed as a supply system to dependent users, is now evolving into an interdependent network of suppliers and users who intelligently cooperate in the proactive management of electrical power. While the basic load shedding definition is simple enough, the results of putting it into practice is already changing the way that power is managed in our civilization as a whole.
When an organization chooses to work with the grid in managing the supply of electricity, it acquires a certain amount of decision making capability. Previously, the decision to alter power supply was the exclusive domain of grid operators. Businesses, like residents, had to accept the consequences of decisions they had no part in making. In that sense, they were completely dependent on the infrastructure with little or no alternatives to fall back on.
With the new load shedding definition, however, this dependence changes to a measure of interdependence. Businesses can now assist in reducing demand throughout the grid so that grid operators no longer have to resort to the problematic and highly unpopular practice of rolling blackouts. Participation offers financial rewards to businesses that make reasonable sacrifices for the benefit of the surrounding community. The infrastructure acquires greater stability, which in turn helps stabilize the local economy.