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by Julian Spector
August 29, 2019

Someone in the crowd asked me what I thought was overhyped in the storage market, when Stephen Lacey and I recorded a year-in-review podcast at GTM's Storage Summit last December. In the moment, on that stage, one phrase came to mind: virtual power plants.

Part of my skepticism derived from the poorly contrived nature of the name itself. The "virtual" description connotes something that lacks physical embodiment, a disservice to the laborers who spend hours selling and installing batteries, inverters and solar panels in homes and businesses. The invocation of "power plant" equates the hopeful vision of a clean, distributed, democratized grid with the very structure that the cleantech sector is trying to replace because it's old, dirty and inefficient.

Beyond linguistic frustrations, I'd simply heard too many lofty cleantech conference panels about how "one day soon" the virtual power plant will move out of its "early days" and remake the grid as we know it. Its ratio of thought-leader mentions to operating, commercially viable projects did not support taking the concept seriously.

The times they do change, though, as we at Greentech Media will be the first to acknowledge.