New Frontiers in Load Flexibility and Load Management

New Frontiers in Load Flexibility and Load Management

On May 12 we returned to the hot topic of grid edge technologies to match supply and demand while avoiding as much new investment as possible.   These technologies involve a combination of hardware for sensing and control and sophisticated software that can use that control to manage to a better use of distribution grid assets. Some gems came out of the discussion we had not heard about before.

Denver Hinds, Manager of Smart Energy innovation at SMUD, talked about upcoming innovations in rate offerings that will enable the interactive management of load and supply.  This will be different than current rule-based systems which are simple, but crude—such as time of use rates that are always highest in a period like 4-9 pm, even though that may not be the actual problem interval depending on conditions at the time.  The ideal situation would be to have a real-time buy/sell market at the distribution level, with capacity, energy, and ancillary services involved.  That could possibly harvest more benefits for the grid.  However, that is complicated and probably not feasible any time soon.  Accordingly, the next step for SMUD will be to use “Critical Peak Pricing” which will boost prices by 50 cents per kWh only at times of critical stress.  It is hoped this will provide more incentive both for customers to allow the utility to shave demand on the grid and for customers with solar and storage assets to curtail their use in order to sell more power into the grid and get the 50-cent premium price.  That opens some new frontiers for innovators to provide customer-side technologies to make the best use of these upcoming incentives. Participation will be voluntary, with a 10% reduction in pricing in 2800 non-peak hours as a further incentive.  SMUD’s goal in taking small steps at a time is to find out if they can achieve dependable and repeatable load shifts with offers customers can understand.   

Scott Silvia, Regional Sales Manager for SPAN, talked about a very new approach for controlling home loads–replacing the entire breaker panel on the home with a new one which can control every circuit in the house, including a Level 2 charger and a home battery unit.  Adding the ability to manage every circuit in the home means that whatever power a homeowner may have during an outage can be stretched and put to the best use.  Rarely can a rooftop solar + storage installation carry the entire load of a house in case of grid failure.  The conventional approach has been to separate out some “critical circuits” and put them in a sub-panel that can be isolated from the main panel.  But if you have a critical need at the time of a particular outage that’s not on one of the circuits in the sub-panel, too bad. With the smart SPAN panel, you can reprioritize circuits with your smartphone and get power where you want it.  

But SPAN has an even cleverer pitch.  Adding a Level 2 EV charger to a home may by the usual utility rules require an upgrade to the typical 200-amp service to a home.  This is to cover the possibility that the charger running full-tilt coincidentally at a time when several other circuits in the home are maxxed out (think hair dryer plus stove plus AC plus pool pump plus clothes dryer) would add up to more than 200 amps.  While those times may be rare, conventional wisdom says upgrade the service at a cost of $2,000 to $20,000 to avoid the problem.  A SPAN Panel with a variable-output SPAN Charger in contrast would manage loads right at the home to keep the demand below 200-amps. 

Finally, Scott said a SPAN Panel would avoid the need to put controls on multiple individual appliances in the home to which a utility could send a signal to turn off in order to manage load.  Instead, the signal could go directly to the SPAN panel to cut load by a certain amount and the Panel could prioritize loads in a way consistent with a homeowner’s pre-set wishes to achieve the load reduction.  

The SPAN panel is not cheap at $3,500 but because it could avoid the need for a number of other investments to achieve load control, it could be the best option available. 

Ezra Beeman, Managing Director of Energeia, told us about his consulting work on a little-appreciated problem that is hobbling the ability of homeowners to get maximum benefits out of their rooftop solar panels.   He has found that the panels actually put power out through the inverter at voltages too high or too contaminated to be completely useful.  The result is that some of the electricity is needlessly wasted since it causes the inverters to shut off.  His solution would be to have a “smarter” inverter coupled to a “smart” water heater or its equivalent to avoid the overvoltage as much as possible and provide a way to put any excess to good use for a short period. 

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | TobinBlueTech Valley, Revrnt, River City Bank

Moss AdamsPowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig, California Mobility Center

Applications Open in Summer for SMUD SHINE Awards 2022

Applications Open in Summer for SMUD SHINE Awards 2022

On June 1 through August 1 the window is open for applications for SHINE Awards from SMUD.  These awards can create sales opportunities for clean tech companies to install clean energy tech in underserved communities.  Here’s one example:   With a $10,000 award, a community organization in South Sacramento installed the “Friendliest Bus Stop in Town”, adding a bench, shade structure, solar power kiosk cell phone charger/Wi-Fi for public use, free little library, bike rack, bike pump and repair stand.  There are dozens of others that involved installing EV charging stations, new LED lighting, rooftop solar, and high-efficiency HVAC.  

Betty Low, Program Manager in the Sustainable Communities Department at SMUD, explained that the awards could be for as much as $100,000.  There are three levels of awards – the Spark level up to $10,000 (with a 25% match required), the Amplifier level ($10,001 to $50,000 with a 50% match requirement), and the Transformer level ($50,001 to $100,000 with a dollar-for-dollar match requirement).  SMUD is looking for applications in 4 categories:  

Social Well-being

Healthy Environment

Prosperous Economy

Improved Mobility

  • Community education
  • Community safety
  • Infrastructure improvements
  • Collective impact partnerships
  • Under-served community development
  • Air quality improvements
  • Carbon emission reduction
  • Climate readiness
  • Environmental justice
  • Health equity
  • Tree canopy
  • Digital accessibility
  • Economic development
  • Small business development
  • Low-income programs
  • Workforce development
  • Technology skills training
  • Electric vehicle
  • Autonomous transportation
  • Public transit access
  • Charging station
  • Walkability
  • Shared mobility access

 

These are pretty broad, so be creative.  A list of all the prior awards is on the SMUD website, so take a look at those for some inspiration.

The awards will cover materials, out-of-pocket expenses, consultants and vendors.  Covering staff costs requires paying prevailing wages, but can be done, according to Betty.  Matching money can be contributions of in-kind costs up to half of the match requirement.  

SMUD is making 6 webinars available in the summer to help you understand the requirements and to give an opportunity to ask questions.  Take advantage of one of those if you are interested.  The dates and sign-ups are on the SMUD website as well.  

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | TobinBlueTech Valley, Revrnt, River City Bank

Moss AdamsPowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig, California Mobility Center

CleanStart Perspectives with XeroHome

CleanStart Perspectives with XeroHome

Join us as we chat with Mudit Saxena, co-founder & CEO of XeroHome, a startup that makes it easy for homeowners to decarbonize their homes.

Our guest, Mudit Saxena, is the co-founder and CEO of XeroHome, a startup that helps homeowners and utilities transition to a low carbon future by prioritizing cost-effective, clean energy upgrades. XeroHome™ is a web platform that uses predictive modeling and data science to deliver customized home energy insights at scale.

CleanStart Perspectives are short online conversations to connect the greater Sacramento clean tech entrepreneurship community and share insights, experiences, and outlooks. Join us as we welcome our featured guests to share their perspective on what entrepreneurs and innovators can do to thrive and grow.

Register and we’ll send you the Zoom login information prior to the meeting time.

CleanStart Perspectives are recorded through Zoom.

Zero By 2030

Zero By 2030

SMUD released a draft plan for getting to zero carbon emissions by 2030.  It is probably the most ambitious energy plan in the country.  One of the big reasons is because it is looking at 100% and the last 10% is hard. For the first 90% SMUD will be relying on existing technologies like wind, solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal energy, battery storage, and demand response. They also know these technologies aren’t fully capable of achieving their 2030 zero-carbon goal. New technologies they are hoping will be developed to get the remaining 10%.  So, while SMUD is not sure what the final journey to Zero will be, they are looking at everything including technologies still in development like Carbon Capture and Hydrogen. A highlight I thought was especially interesting is their focus on Virtual Power Plants and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) where people are encouraged to have grid communicating devices.  This focus on behind-the-meter technologies could open the door to companies that can successfully aggregate rate payers for Demand Response.

Make sure you read the Full Plan and Connect with SMUD.

Here is the full board meeting Presentation 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | Tobin, Moss Adams GreenbergTraurig

BlueTech Valley, PowerSoft.biz, Revrnt, Synbyo, Califronia Mobility Center

SMUD on Guard

SMUD on Guard

Cybersecurity is big in the energy industry.  The Department of Homeland Security identifies the energy sector as part of the United States’ critical infrastructure. Its assets, systems, and networks are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect. Clean energy would be affected as would utilities like the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD),

The question of our nation’s security has been raised on multiple occasions. Because of its importance, I spoke with Antiwon Jacobs, SMUD’s Director of Cybersecurity and Chief Information Security Officer, to learn more about the importance of cybersecurity and how it might impact entrepreneurs in clean energy. There are many forms of security that SMUD finds important to which includes but is not limited to data security, supply chain security, and infrastructure security.

When it comes to new technologies SMUD works hard to make sure that all of their customers receive only the best, thus when new technologies come around they vet them carefully so they are compliant with all regulations. Companies must ensure they are compliant, especially if they are on SMUD’s side of the meter. All technologies are analyzed and reviewed to ensure they are compliant with not only SMUD’s security standard but also other relevant regulations. Companies that want to work with SMUD should visit their website-based procurement page, some small businesses can find additional assistance through SMUD’s SEED Program

In order to effectively prevent attacks from foreign adversaries, Director Jacobs highlighted how and why security is so important and why he and other SMUD department directors are also tasked with making sure security is a priority..  For example, SMUD’s supply chain and SMUD’s Director of Procurement consistently focus on making sure the supply chain and infrastructure is secure.  Following directives from the federal government, SMUD takes the necessary steps and actions to make certain the utility and its customers are safe from attacks on the electrical grid.

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Saraia Jackson is a second-year computer science major at CSU Sacramento. Her long-term goal is to become a cybersecurity analyst. She wants to show young African American women that they can do whatever they put their minds to no matter where they come from. She also really wants to devote her life to helping children and making a difference. 

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | Tobin, EY, Moss Adams

BlueTech Valley, PowerSoft.biz

College of Engineering & Computer Science at Sacramento State


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