For the past four years, Greentech Media has been giving its Grid Edge Awards to the leading companies and projects that incorporate distributed energy resources, energy-enabled customers, and other emerging trends that are upending the century-old concept of centralized, unidirectional electricity delivery.
This year’s award winners -- nominated by and voted on by energy industry stakeholders, including the team of analysts at GTM Research -- represents an even broader set of participants in this energy revolution. First, the awards were expanded to accept submissions from companies or projects based outside the U.S., as well as individual commercial, industry or public energy consumers who have deployed distributed energy solutions on-site.
Second, our 2017 Grid Edge Awards include hard data from projects that are putting each winning company or project’s innovations to the test -- a nod to the real-world growth we've seen emerge since we started tracking the field four years ago.
Landis+Gyr demand manager
Landis+Gyr makes smart meters, and it wants them to do a lot more than just bill energy. Back in 2013, we covered the AMI giant’s work to link smart meters, dynamic pricing, automated home appliance and HVAC response, distributed energy assets, and a grid management system from parent company Toshiba. The test in Los Alamos, New Mexico was apparently successful -- Landis+Gyr reports that “pilot deployments have seen customers in a large Southwest utility on solar demand rates reduce energy consumption and lower energy bills, increasing understanding and acceptance of new rate structures.”
Through the course of the pilot, Landis+Gyr has “initiated hundreds of shedding events per home, with minimal customer opt-outs of shedding events.”
Landis+Gyr is now bringing this technology to bear in a platform that combines distributed computing, wireless technology and software to communicate locally with meters, programmable thermostats, and load control switches via its existing wireless mesh. “Demand forecasting at the meter means that all the calculations use the most recent data and can react quickly to localized production and demand changes, reducing latency, and increasing customer comfort,” the company notes.
Siemens integrated DERMS solution
Siemens is reinvigorating their leading grid control, equipment and services portfolio to address 21st century utility challenges. Siemens is approaching the grid edge driven transformation from multiple angles, including microgrid control focused on local management, to utility control center applications that localize the availability of flexible demand on the distribution grid. At this year’s DistribuTech conference in January, Siemens announced a comprehensive DER portfolio strategy integrating utility planning to operations management and intelligent grid equipment to consumer enablement technologies, dubbed its Integrated DERMS solution.
Siemens DER portfolio strategy leverages their experience addressing DER challenges with projects such as Hawaii Electric’s SHINES (Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV) project, and Arizona Public Service's Solar Partner Program. Siemens enabled DER capabilities include easily managing the growing DER system complexity through intelligent field automation and applying the most advanced algorithms to optimize network operations given economic constraints and opportunities. Siemens DER portfolio is leading the industry in flexible, scalable solutions for maintaining reliable service while addressing the management and optimization challenges of increasing DER on the grid.
Avista Corp.’s electric vehicle supply equipment pilot
Lots of utilities are experimenting with smart electric-vehicle charging. But Avista is the only U.S. utility so far to get approval for its novel approach -- rate-basing investment in electric-vehicle supply equipment, or EVSE, in homes and businesses downstream of the customer meter.
Over a two year period, Avista’s Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Pilot is installing 120 EVSE ports in single family homes, 100 in workplaces and multifamily units, 45 at public facilities, and 7 DC fast chargers, across its eastern Washington state service territory. These chargers will be networked and controlled by the utility, giving it the ability to “obtain charging profile data and managed charging to shift peak utility loads to off-peak, using an integrated platform with open communications protocols and interoperable equipment and software.” Avista will seek recovery of the costs of the program estimated at $3.1 million, through its normal rate recovery process.
Avista has measured the success of the program with an eye toward enriching the customer experience and building a new business model. With more than 5,000 charging sessions to date, the utility is seeing a $1,300 annual fuel and maintenance savings per household, and relatively low equipment and installation costs for residential and commercial sites at $2,458 and $4,469, respectively. Plus, 97 percent of customers are “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with installation and service.
Arizona Public Service Solar Partner Program
APS has broken new ground on the integration of solar-equipped customers with its Solar Partner Program. Launched in late 2014, the program had been fully subscribed as of mid-2016 with about 1,670 participating households that receive a $30 monthly credit for 20 years in exchange for leasing their solar PV and inverter capabilities to the utility. With this program, APS has become the first utility in the country to deploy and remotely control advanced inverters, which allow the utility to operate rooftop solar installations as they would any other power plant, ramping up or curtailing power based on customers’ real-time energy needs.
The project is looking at six distribution feeders in the Phoenix metro area serving about 14,000 customers, and includes 2,400 existing PV systems. Working with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Siemens and other partners, APS deployed power quality monitors to pull data in 1-second and 1-minute intervals. It taps inverter and smart meter data on energy production, consumption, and service voltages.
So far, more than 95 percent inverters are reporting. Demonstration of both cellular and AMI pathways for communications and control have been successful, and there's proof that utility control has minimal adverse effects on inverter power production.
San Diego Gas & Electric’s storage-enabled virtual power plant
Behind-the-meter batteries can serve multiple masters. San Diego Gas & Electric, a utility with lots of solar PV coming onto its system, has teamed up with Green Charge Networks to see how behind-the-meter batteries can help meet grid needs at the same time they’re helping two San Diego schools manage demand charges. The 14.4-megawatt-hour project has 31 energy storage systems at 22 sites, and is testing capabilities for demand response, peak-load shaving capability, managing local distribution circuits and system power quality.
Over 16 weeks, SDG&E will simulate eight demand response events via day-ahead, 30-minute, and 15-second notification lead times, based on season, weather variations, time of day, and building conditions. At the same time, partner Green Charge will be making sure that Poway and Grossmont school districts are still receiving their key service of shaving demand charges, and will co-optimize customer bill reduction with grid services.
Edison Energy/PowerBloks PPA
Today’s market for corporate renewable power purchase agreements is dominated by large companies serving as “offtakers,” or purchasers of large blocks of power. Edison Energy wants to open the market to smaller companies, and its PowerBloks power-purchase agreements (PPAs) are the solution.
Developed by the Altenex unit of Edison Energy, which has helped clients execute more than 1.4 gigawatts of renewable energy transactions in the U.S. and Mexico, PowerBloks feature 10-year terms and 10-megawatt tranches of off-take sourced from new-build renewable energy projects, giving organizations with smaller energy loads access to the “financial, risk and sustainability benefits of new renewables.” Getting to commercialization was a significant challenge, but PowerBloks PPAs are now available from Edison Energy, and “the rollout to the market has just begun in earnest.”
Tangent Energy Solutions
Tangent Energy Solutions specializes in enabling commercial and industrial customers, government agencies and utilities to capture the value of distributed energy resources. The company’s DERMS technology integrates customers into the grid edge, complete with the managed services and DER assets needed to participate in those opportunities. Working with retail energy providers allows Tangent to monetize C&I DER participation directly on customer energy bills.
So far, Tangent has worked with 8,000 customers in a dozen different business verticals, with more than 3,000 megawatts of managed DERs in its portfolio. It has also developed 95 megawatts of solar and natural gas distributed generation, and raised $90 million in project financing last year from Generate Capital and Constant Energy Capital.
Sterling Municipal Light Department’s energy storage project
This 2-megawatt, 3.9-megawatt-hour battery storage system is the first of its kind in Massachusetts, and it’s also one of the more versatile in approach. The project’s “multiple stacked applications” include reducing utility costs, and using solar and energy storage to provide up to 12 days of clean backup power to critical public facilities. The project ramped up quickly -- it went from groundbreaking to commissioning in just three months. In its first month of operation in December, it shaved demand charges by more than $2,000 with a mere 2-hour battery discharge.
Sterling Municipal Light gets about 35 percent of its generation from renewable sources, primarily wind, hydro and solar. PV accounts for about 30 percent of Sterling's peak load, giving it plenty of opportunity to use the system to manage renewable integration as well. Expected payback for installed system costs is under seven years, not counting project grants.
The project was supported by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, with additional financial and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity under the direction of Dr. Imre Gyuk, Sandia National Laboratories, and Clean Energy States Alliance. Technical support was also provided by Clean Energy Group through a grant from the Barr Foundation. Battery installation and commissioning was provided by NEC Energy Solutions.
Utilities are looking for ways to expand their business models and take advantage of the rise of distributed generation. Enervee’s proprietary data engine has been helping utilities such as San Diego Gas & Electric, Pacific Gas & Electric, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power in California, Con Edison and E.ON Energy engage with their customers on this front. Its clients now make product efficiency marketplaces available to roughly 20 million households. That number is set to double to nearly 50 million when Enervee launches its next European marketplace in Q2 2017.
Enervee’s customer engagement platform is helping utilities build an ongoing, value-added relationship as trusted energy advisor with their residential customers, supported by a user interface that meets the expectations of millennials. This means a seamless, simple (yet sophisticated) and personalized energy management experience across energy efficiency, demand response and distributed energy resource offerings, such as solar. The company’s data engine supports a granular, daily updated Enervee Score for each consumer product, which makes efficiency visible to consumers, and allows Enervee to inject this missing information into the modern, increasingly digital, shopping journey. By partnering with utilities, retailers, publishers, and manufacturers to share efficiency data, its Enervee Charge platform grows the digitally connected utility audience and facilitates targeted digital marketing. This not only drives program participation, but also opens up new revenue streams for utilities, in support of innovative business models.
AltaGas Pomona's energy storage project
The closure of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage site in Southern California has provided the energy storage industry a unique opportunity to prove that batteries can be up and running to support the grid in months, not years. One of the largest such projects is a 20-megawatt, 80-megawatt-hour lithium-ion installation at the AltaGas Pomona natural gas co-generation plant.
Commissioned last fall, the project was completed in just under five months. AltaGas Pomona Energy Storage built and retained ownership of the project. The company is getting monthly resource adequacy payments by SCE for providing multiple hours of storage -- thanks to a very quick turnaround by the AltaGas team.
..and Greensmith's involvement in the AltaGas project
Greensmith provided the hardware and software for the plant. Greensmith, which has assisted in the installation of about 180 megawatts of projects to date, noted that “deploying storage isn’t about snapping batteries and inverters together. Deploying this size of project in this short of a timeline with a 100 percent safety record would be impossible without deep industry expertise.”
This Silicon Valley startup has grown from a maker of home electric vehicle chargers to a software platform provider working on some of the largest smart EV charging projects out there. The company's JuiceNet platform manages data for several thousand participants -- “more than all other EV charging infrastructure vendors combined." It is participating in California Public Utilities Commission-sponsored submetering programs, the state’s demand response auction mechanism, and “concierge” programs with community-choice aggregators Sonoma Clean Power and Marin Clean Energy.
The company is also working with EV chargers from AeroVironment, Clipper Creek, Nayax and Volta to bring its software to a broader audience. The end goal is to reduce energy procurement costs, enable grid balancing and help avoid unnecessary grid infrastructure upgrades that would otherwise cost utilities and ISOs hundreds of billions of dollars.
Central Electric Cooperative's Progressive Resource Energy Park
Oklahoma is not the first state that comes to mind when one thinks of grid edge innovation. But Central Electric Cooperative is working to change that impression through its PREP microgrid project. Part of the Innovation Pointe development, it combines a 500-kilowatt AC solar array, a 250-kilowatt, 475-kilowatt-hour Tesla Powerpack battery storage system, a geothermal heat pump loop, diesel backup generator, and redundant power supply from two substations. Smart grid technologies allow for the seamless integration between renewable and traditional grid power, while Central’s LEED-certified headquarters facility was designed to minimize energy consumption and provide reliability for the on-site Tier II data and operations center.
It's a big regional project, with support from Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives and CoBank, as well as vendors including SoCore Energy, Guernsey, TCEC, tenKsolar, Tesla Energy, Today’s Power, Inc. and others. “The project demonstrates that energy innovation isn’t exclusive to the coasts; technological change, disruptive market forces and customer preferences are evolving utility paradigms in the Oklahoma heartland as well.”
PG&E San Jose DER demonstration project
Pacific Gas & Electric has more rooftop solar than any other utility, and it’s under pressure to create the technology infrastructure to integrate these distributed energy resources into grid operations. That's the goal of its San Jose DER demonstration project launched last year, which has brought in third-party DER aggregators Green Charge Networks and SolarCity to engage customers and deploy a fleet of behind-the-meter batteries, solar PV and smart inverters to be dispatched by a Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS) from General Electric.
The DERMS field is “a very nascent solution set,” PG&E noted. “Regulations related to DERs providing distribution services are not yet established and have been largely demonstrated in theory via white papers. This demonstration puts in practice a distribution-level marketplace to test the ability of DERs to provide a variety of services via a utility platform.”
PG&E, along with California's other two big investor-owned utilities, are under regulatory and economic pressure to integrate DERs into their grid operations and investment plans, via the CPUC’s Distribution Resources Plan (DRP) and Integration of Distributed Energy Resources (IDER) proceedings.
Technology to make electric vehicles a grid resource will rely on both scale and sophistication. Startup EV-Box has been working on the scale side of the equation, with more than 50,000 of its smart EV charging stations deployed in 27 countries and 980 cities to date. In the U.S. market, EV-Box is starting to deploy its solutions in California, and recently secured a 300-station pilot with EVConnect and the New York Power Authority. And its recent purchase by Engie, the former GDF Suez Energy Services, gives it opportunity for far more scale in the years ahead.
The company uses the OpenADR protocol to support next-generation grid integration, allowing owners of charging stations to participate in demand response and other grid services. Its load-balancing services optimally distribute the available power capacity to each car and prevent charging stations from exceeding a facility’s power capacity, thus reducing energy costs and deferring expensive infrastructure upgrades.
Tendril’s Orchestrated Energy platform
Tendril is one of the original entrants to the nascent world of home energy management, with more than a decade in utility pilots and deployments. It has a lot of experience -- and a lot of data -- to keep fine-tuning and expanding its scope of work. With its Orchestrated Energy platform, Tendril is putting its technology to work for Continuous Demand Management, or CDM -- a solution that enables utilities to simultaneously optimize system operation and customer comfort. It’s connecting with smart thermostats and rooftop solar today to optimize cooling schedules to shave peaks without sacrificing customer comfort.
Two large U.S. utilities have piloted Orchestrated Energy, reducing air conditioner demands on the grid by up to 50 percent and lowering consumption from cooling by up to 20 percent, with twice the efficiency savings of a smart thermostat alone and twice the HVAC demand reduction. Tendril is planning to add smart water heaters, electric cars and other resources to its mix, putting them to use by supporting TOU rates and integrating renewables into the grid.
Zen Ecosystems and its National Stores customer deployment
Over the past four years, Zen Ecosystems has been putting its smart thermostats to use in both homes and larger businesses, via packages that let retailers manage thermostats across a fleet of stores. The latest proving point for this approach to enterprise energy management comes through partner, National Stores, a retail chain with more than 360 locations across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Working with the Zen HQ cloud platform, which offers low-cost and simple installation compared to many commercial building energy management offerings, National Stores was able to reduce energy bills by more than 25 percent compared to the prior year, and it is expected to deliver payback in less than a year, compared to three to five years with traditional solutions. It’s also delivering savings beyond energy. The platform reduced maintenance costs by giving energy managers control over HVAC schedules to avoid running systems 24 hours a day and seeing them fail after over-operation in extreme temperatures.
This grid edge winner comes from the Netherlands, where it has successfully integrated residential energy controls in a 203-home pilot with utility Alliander, Essent, IBM, ICT Group, NRG031, and the city of Heerhugowaard that go far beyond smart thermostats. Most of the homes had solar panels, with 95 households getting a PV switch to allow system control of their solar output. Another 49 households had heat pumps, 45 had electric boilers, and a select 14 got their own fuel cells.
The use cases included backup power -- the system helped prevent 15 power outages -- and supply and demand flexibility. Fuel cells were controlled 35 percent of the time, providing a more dispatchable source of local balancing.
Whisker Labs gets its name from its whisker-like sensors, which stick to the face of breaker panels and collect and analyze in-depth electrical data -- all at a price point well below traditional current clamps and other electrician-required sensors available today. From there, it has built a demand-side management and automation platform for home energy controls, as well as analytics to learn from the data it’s collecting.
The Oakland, Calif.-based startup got a big boost this spring with news that Honeywell is adding its Connected Savings Intelligent Demand Side Management technology platform to its utility industry offerings, opening the startup’s software to a broader set of potential customers. With the ability to work with any standard Wi-Fi thermostat, it also could help play a role in the emergence of the long awaited “bring-your-own-thermostat” market.
Brooklyn-based EnergyHub has gone through multiple iterations, from in-home displays and smart thermostats to the underlying customer energy engagement and analytics software for utility and energy services partners. Its 2013 acquisition by Alarm.com provided ample opportunity to put its capabilities to use with a wider market, and the number and size of EnergyHub's programs have also increased significantly in the last 18 months.
Last year, EnergyHub launched an update to its platform called "Firm Load Dispatch," built to deliver reliable and sustained megawatts of load reduction from its fleets of smart thermostats, coordinating the compressor cycles of a large population of air conditioners through advanced machine learning thermal modeling and real-time data and communication. The result is a load curve similar to what a utility would see from a generation resource -- the kind of reliable and predictable features that could help smart thermostats take a much broader role in utilities’ future grid edge needs.
Con Edison Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management Auction
Consolidated Edison is taking some of the first steps toward creating the distributed energy markets under New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative with its Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management project. Instead of spending $2 billion to renovate two substations serving the boroughs, Con Ed has put out contracts and procured its own blend of batteries, smart thermostats, lighting controls, other distributed energy resources that can help mitigate the evening demand surges that are putting the area’s substations under strain.
To get its blend of DERs, Con Ed held an auction last summer, allowing bidders to set their price for systems that could provide combinations of energy and demand reduction between 4 p.m. and midnight. The auction ran for the 2017 and 2018 summer seasons, and garnered 22 megawatts of load reduction.
It’s the first auction of its kind aimed specifically at valuing DERs as a “non-wires alternative” to traditional grid investments, as the REV proceeding will require.
We’d like note several companies and projects that deserve an honorable mention for their work.
The first is National Grid, which has plenty of its own REV-driven initiatives underway in New York. These include its Fruit Belt Neighborhood Solar REV Demonstration Project, which will equip about 100 Buffalo homes with utility-owned rooftop solar PV, plus efficiency retrofits and bill savings to sweeten the deal for customers, while it explores how to manage the interplay of solar intermittency and grid efficiency.
In Massachusetts, National Grid is running a three-year, $25 million Electric Vehicle Market Development Program to cover costs for about 600 customer host sites, along with customer outreach and education and R&D efforts. It’s also testing solar-battery integration, and ran a 1,500-thermostat BYOT program last summer with a lot of options for how customers can get involved.
OpusOne is a Canadian startup with a software-hardware combination tackling the grid edge interface. It is designed to monitor, manage and manipulate the DERs on the system in tandem with utility grid controls. It’s playing a key role in several microgrid projects in the Northeast, including work with National Grid on a REV demonstration at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
LO3 Energy, meanwhile, is putting blockchain technology to use in enabling peer-to-peer energy transactions. The startup has developed a blockchain-based platform called TransActive Grid, combining a smart meter network with decentralized energy information to create real-time, location-based energy prices. Its Brooklyn Microgrid demonstration project hosted its first energy transaction between neighbors in April 2016, and it has installed dozens of meters since then.
This year, Grid Edge World Forum will be even bigger than the last. We'll have three days of sessions that address virtually all facets of the grid edge. We'll have the most influential executives, entrepreneurs and analysts from across the energy sector for unparalleled networking opportunities and exhibitions. Come join the audience of global utilities, emerging startups, and fast-growing industries like EVs and customer energy management. Learn more here.