Puget Sound Energy (PSE), Washington state’s largest utility, is expanding its virtual power plant (VPP) partnership with AutoGrid in an effort to reduce costs and improve the reliability of its energy supply.
PSE and AutoGrid first joined forces on the utility’s VPP project in 2021 when the company’s artificial intelligence software platform, AutoGrid Flex, was employed to enroll, dispatch and assess the performance of generation assets within the VPP.
Going forward, AutoGrid software will also provide aggregation monitoring, reporting and customer management for VPP participants in the Puget Sound Energy service territory.
"We’ll be able to engage our customers like never before to use energy as efficiently as possible, because the cleanest form of energy is the energy you don't use," said Aaron August, chief customer and transformation officer at PSE.
Virtual power plants gaining market traction
VPPs use an intelligent control system and bidirectional technology to aggregate energy from networked resources located at multiple sites, such as solar plus storage systems, electric vehicles and other DERs. The technology creates a reliable power network by bundling together what could be hundreds of discrete power sources into one that can be dispatched during times of peak demand, just as a centralized power plant would.
VPPs can include microgrids, but they are not the same thing. VPPs serve the grid, while microgrids use connected DERs to power a defined area independently of the main power grid – providing resilience to the microgrid owner.
PSE joins a growing list of utilities boosting their investment in VPPs as a way to utilize the power generated by an increasing number of distributed energy resources (DER) in the market.
In August, the Public Utility Commission of Texas announced two VPP pilot programs to coordinate the operation of consumer-owned connected devices and will collectively become another dispatchable power source for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas during times of high demand.
San Diego Gas & Electric is also running a VPP pilot project to help the grid meet electricity demand when summer temperatures rise.
And, in October, the Missouri Public Service Commission voted overwhelmingly in favor of a plan that would allow the aggregation of commercial and industrial customers into VPPs that can participate in wholesale market demand response programs.
VPPs reduce costs, improve grid reliability
The PSE VPP will “demonstrate the power of harnessing distributed energy resources to create a clean, more resilient, and cost-effective grid," according to Ruben Llanes, CEO of AutoGrid.
PSE’s goal with its VPP program is to reduce costs, improve the reliability of its energy supply and increase the amount of renewable energy flowing through its system to its more than 1 million residential and business customers. The utility aims to be a beyond net zero carbon energy company by 2045.
Participants will be compensated for sharing their DER assets with the grid or for reducing their demand for grid power, when called upon.
"This is an exciting partnership for PSE as we work toward our renewable energy goals while maintaining safe, reliable energy for our customers," said August.
Llanes added that in addition to helping PSE meet its goals, the partnership would “accelerate progress toward a sustainable energy future."
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