20th PLMA Award Winner - Pacesetter Program: 

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative with ICF

PLMA Trophy 

The FlexTemp Pilot

The first Smart Thermostat DR Program to take a load management approach that epitomizes flexibility, recognizes energy and capacity savings, and has been optimized to reduce GHG emissions. 

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PLMA Pacesetter Program Winners

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) is a customer-owned cooperative with over 170,000 members. SMECO’s FlexTemp Pilot focuses on ensuring its members' comfort and reducing event opt-out rates through an analytical and targeted approach to event dispatch.

By performing advanced analytics on member load profiles and understanding when and how customers use energy for cooling and heating purposes, as well as how sensitive their homes are to temperature changes, SMECO has been able to group members into cohorts that have similar characteristics.

These cohorts can be created on a day-to-day basis based on which members are enrolled in the program and when they can provide value to the grid. In this first-of-its-kind program, SMECO’s FlexTemp Pilot provides proof that taking a flexible approach to managing DERs as a grid resource is a best-in-class approach to load management, and that behind-the-meter resources can be managed to support decarbonization goals.

Impacts of the FlexTemp Pilot:
Gaining Maryland Public Service Commission approval in March of 2022, the SMECO FlexTemp Pilot moved quickly to stand up a flexible load management program directly associated with the management of smart thermostats, during both the cooling and heating seasons. The approach taken for the program was presented during PLMA's Spring 2022 Conference and was titled “Revenue and Emission Benefits of Managing Thermostats on a Sub-hourly Basis”. 

The FlexTemp Pilot builds on SMECO’s innovative approach to utilizing smart thermostats, dating back to 2015, as one of the first utilities to provide incentives to customers for the installation of smart thermostats. 

The FlexTemp Pilot achieved considerable success in 2022 and proves it's possible to manage behind-the-meter assets as grid resources, and that devices can also support decarbonization goals and plans. Additional impacts include:

  • The ability to group cohort members and schedule dispatches on a day-ahead basis.
  • Development of procedures to group cohort members and schedule dispatches on a real-time basis
  • Learning customer behavior, which allows for seasonality of customer cohorting.
  • Optimization of members enrolled to dispatch events to achieve firm service levels.
  • Optimization of members enrolled to dispatch events to achieve guaranteed load drop.
  • Events called based on optimization of energy savings
  • Events called based on optimization of capacity savings
  • Events called based on optimization of GHG emission reduction
  • Ability to dispatch on a real-time basis instead of day ahead basis
  • Members enrolled = 250+ with the expectation of exceeding 1,000+ by May 2023.
  • Reduced member opt-out rate in comparison with traditional DR programs (~1.5% as compared to ~25%)
  • kW/member saved on average per event: 1 kW

About the PLMA Awards Program
PLMA's Awards Program, held each year, recognizes industry leaders who, in the previous calendar year, created innovative ideas, methods, programs, and technologies to manage end-use loads, meet peak load demand, and support the successful grid integration of distributed energy resources. The overarching goal of the PLMA Awards Program is to identify and promote industry initiatives that can potentially benefit multiple organizations. To facilitate learning, each award winner is invited to present their work and successes, as well as the important lessons learned, via a 1-hour webinar for all PLMA stakeholders. 

PLMA webinars are presented live online, published on its YouTube Channel, and broadcast over its podcast, "PLMA: Load Management Dialogues" which is available from whereever you get your podcasts. Please check the PLMA Calendar to register for an upcoming webinar. 

Over the past 20 years, PLMA has presented ~105 awards to utilities, product/service providers, end-users, and individuals responsible for demand response efforts targeted to the residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural customer markets.