Methods for Computing Physically Realistic Estimates of Electric Water Heater Demand Response Resource Suitable for Bulk Power System Planning Models

Elaine Hale, Matt Leach, Brady Cowiestoll, Yashen Lin, Daniel Levie

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Demand response is commonly called on to reduce load during system peak times or to respond to contingency events. In future power systems with higher shares of wind and solar generation (which we describe together as variable generation [VG]), demand response could have more opportunities to provide energy shifting or operating reserve services. This report evaluates the ability of residential electric water heaters, both electric resistance water heaters (ERWHs) and heat pump water heaters (HPWHs), to provide such services starting from detailed whole-building energy models that realistically represent New England single family home stock. We use a parsimonious surrogate model to represent operational flexibility in a form suitable for linear and mixed integer programming. This enables relatively fast determination of aggregate contingency reserve resource, price-taking energy shifting outcomes, and in some cases the determination of aggregate models at the megawatt (MW) scale that can be directly included in large-scale grid models. After selecting modeling methods and parameters through various computational experiments, we find interquartile ranges of contingency reserve resource in ISO-NE for about 603,400 ERWHs of 45 MW - 69 MW for Claim10 (50 minute responses provided with 10 minutes of advanced notification) and 65 MW - 102 MW for Claim30 (30 minute responses provided with 30 minutes of advanced notification), and for about 619,000 HPWHs of 48 MW - 88 MW for Claim10 and 52 MW - 90 MW for Claim30. The overall reserve resource is up to 32% of total load for ERWHs providing Claim10 service, 47% for ERWHs providing Claim30 service, 93% for HPWHs providing Claim10 service, and 97% for HPWHs providing Claim30 service. More work is required to determine if HPWHs are inherently more suitable than ERWHs for providing contingency reserve or if these results reflect idiosyncrasies of the single family home stock model used in this study. The value of this contingency resource in a Near-term VG model of ISO-NE is $0.40 to $1.20 per water heater-year, and significantly larger, $3.80 to $5.30 per water heater-year in a Mid-term VG model of ISONE. Aggregating surrogate models to the MW-scale for energy shifting service is more challenging than for contingency service and we only present such results for ERWHs, because we were unable to determine satisfactory ways to deal with HPWHs' time-varying and path dependent operational characteristics. Individual surrogate models suitable for evaluating the energy shifting resource from both ERWHs and HPWHs are created, however, and dispatched against day-ahead prices from the Near-Term VG and Mid-Term VG models of ISO-NE. The individual surrogate models are able to access and potentially shift all 640 GWh of HPWH load and 1,547 GWh of ERWH load we modeled in two different single family home stock models. In contrast, the most effective model of aggregate ERWH shifting resource we created only captured 34.7% of the total ERWH load. Energy shifting affected by price-taking dispatch against modeled day-ahead energy prices produces per water heater year profits of $19.44 - $22.93 for individual HPWHs, $39.11 - $40.54 for individual ERWHs, and up to $4.00 - $4.24 for aggregated ERWHs, with the variations mainly due to grid conditions (more or less VG). When the supply-side response to these changes is accounted for, the per water heater year production cost savings for ISO-NE are $7.50 to $17.70 for the most effective set of endogenously dispatched aggregate ERWHs, $15.60 to $15.70 for individual ERWHs dispatched against the DA prices, and $10.70 to $11.20 for individual HPWHs dispatched against DA prices. Those ranges primarily represent the difference between Near-Term VG and Mid-Term VG grid conditions.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages94
StatePublished - 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A40-82315


  • building energy modeling
  • demand response
  • electric water heating
  • power system modeling
  • water heaters


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