Physically Realistic Estimates of Electric Water Heater Demand Response Resource

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

Research output: NRELPresentation


Multiple grid integration studies have examined the value of demand response, including from water heaters, to bulk power systems. Common shortcomings of these studies include physically unrealistic assumptions. For example, studies often assume that all electric water heater load can be shed for up to an hour to provide capacity or contingency service, that all electric water heater load is shiftable, and that round-trip efficiencies for shifting service are 100%. Another issue is that simply summing up estimates of individual water heaters' flexibility bounds, an attractive idea for constructing the MW-scale resources necessary for direct inclusion in grid investment and operational models, can result in significant overestimates of actual resource, because, e.g., a water heater with the ability to reduce load may not be able sustain the reduction for as long as the aggregate model suggests is possible. This presentation demonstrates the impact of estimating the flexibility of electric water heaters with physically realistic models suitable for grid service analysis. Electric water heater flexibility representations are constructed based on ResStock simulations of New England. Specifically, we examine contingency resource (related to capacity, shed, and contingency reserve services) and energy shifting resource from electric resistance and heat pump water heaters. Different estimation methods are compared; and the surrogate models' event responses are validated against events directly simulated in EnergyPlus. We also demonstrate the impact of using electric water heaters for contingency reserves and energy shifting in detailed models of possible future ISO New England power systems.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages40
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the ACEEE 2022 Hot Water Forum, 21-23 March 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-6A40-82082


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


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