Pilot Overview

Tacoma Power and the Bonneville Power Administration in partnership with the Tacoma Housing Authority are researching a modular communications port that can be adapted to new water heaters (electric and hybrid) for the purpose of using residential water heaters in Demand Response (DR) programs. Demand response programs enable utility customers an opportunity to play a significant role in the operation of the electric grid by reducing or shifting their electricity usage during periods of peak electric usage in response to time-based rates or other forms of financial incentives.

The results of this pilot will help BPA and participating manufacturers determine whether this new modular communications port will be integrated into newly manufactured water heaters for potential use in utility DR programs nationwide. Tacoma Power hopes to learn lessons that could lead to DR controlled residential water heaters becoming a new program.


About the project

In cooperation with the Tacoma Housing Authority, 87 duplex and triplex units were identified at the Salishan housing complex in East Tacoma. Older water heaters in these units were replaced with newer, more efficient models produced with the new modular communications port.  Bonneville Power Administration negotiated a price reduction with the water heater manufacturer to match the replacement cost of the lower efficiency water heaters while Tacoma Power provided incentives to the Housing Authority for households that signed up for and finished the one year project.

During the yearlong pilot participating customers will experience a series of demand response “events” with little or no notice.  Should participants know that they will need hot water during a specific time period they will have the option to “opt out” of DR events for a 24 hour period.