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Emerging Tech Brew: Texas grid operators are plugging into virtual power plants

Posted by Grace Donnelly and Jenn Brice on Aug 15, 2022

Emerging Tech Brew detailed how virtual power plants can support grid reliability, citing AEE's Cailtin Marquis and TAEBA's Ignacio Guajardo on the technology and Texas' pilot program. Read snippets below and the full article here.

While virtual power plants might sound like some made-up metaverse feature, they are very real—and they’re powered by actual homes and businesses.

As more homeowners and business owners invest in technologies that can form the foundation of virtual power plants (VPPs)—like rooftop solar batteries, smart thermostats, or electric vehicles—grid operators are exploring the tech as a potential solution for reliability and demand challenges in strained energy markets, according to Ignacio Guajardo, executive director of the Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance (TAEBA).

Texas is one region experimenting with VPP tech, which uses software to let a decentralized network of people and businesses distribute power from their own energy systems as needed.  In July, the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT) approved a virtual power-plant pilot project intended to help solve grid-reliability issues. At the time, TAEBA called the program “an important step toward a more reliable power grid in Texas.”

“Currently, owners of these systems are able to supply power to their own loads at times, and in general, they receive credits for the excess energy they produce,” Guajardo told Emerging Tech Brew. “But these technologies can actually partake in grid operations much more broadly.”

“It creates massive cost savings [for home and business owners],” he added. “And it also probably contributes toward affordability, reliability, and resilience for the grid.”... 

While VPP pilot projects are underway in other markets, employing the tech is not a one-size-fits-all model, said Caitlin Marquis, policy director at TAEBA.

For example, she mentioned that some TAEBA members warned against copy-and-pasting California’s existing VPP models.

“Not just because, you know, the markets are different, and that won’t work, but there are barriers in the California programs, the way that they’re set up, that we would be seeking to avoid in a Texas program,” Marquis said. One difference is that California’s program is subject to oversight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but Texas has its own grid.

Read the full article here.

Topics: United In The News, Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance, Caitlin Marquis