Vivint Solar joins EnergyHub in expanding PV and storage demand response programs

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EnergyHub, a provider of software for managing distributed energy resources (DERs), has partnered with three top solar and storage installers — SunRun, Tesla and most recently Vivint Solar — on DR programs providing utilities high flexibility, and customers high incentives.

National Grid and its Connected Solutions program have been the testing ground for this new form of demand response (DR) , which provides customers a “bring your own battery” approach, and incentives best described as air conditioning (AC) cycling on steroids. Under such traditional DR programs, customers receive a modest bill discount for allowing utilities to temporarily lower or turn off their AC systems a small number of times per summer — to relieve stress on the grid at times of high demand.

But, with EnergyHub’s DER management platform, utilities can aggregate residential batteries and discharge their power to the grid to meet demand peaks, without any impact on customer comfort or convenience. According to the National Grid website, the utility may call up to 60 DR “events” over a summer, each lasting up to three hours.

Participating customers receive incentives of $225 per kilowatt of capacity provided, but may not even know their batteries are discharging, said Matt Johnson, EnergyHub’s vice president of business development.

“They’ve agreed, but they don’t know,” he said. “One of the great corollaries of batteries being able to provide a response so frequently is that they can provide more value to the utility and much higher incentives for customers to enroll their batteries.”

The National Grid program is actually based on inverter types — that is, the utility manages the batteries through the inverters, and SunRun, Tesla and Vivint all use qualifying equipment. The utility aims to enroll the equivalent of 17 megawatts of load relief in the program by 2021.

EnergyHub’s partnership with Vivint will allow the installer’s customers in Massachusetts to qualify for Connected Solutions. Looking ahead, EnergyHub has its eye on Vivint’s thousands of customers across the country and the potential for DR with solar and storage to become a game changer for the industry.

Johnson sees a symbiotic and virtuous cycle, with higher incentives for customers driving sales of more residential solar and storage systems, which in turn can be harnessed to provide more grid services for utilities.

“That only makes them more valuable to the utility, which helps justify higher incentives,” he said. “The success of our product is predicated on the continued deployment of solar and storage systems, and the ability to aggregate them effectively as customer-owned assets.”

Demand response programs incorporating residential solar and storage systems have the potential to turn utilities into supporters of these installations, easing traditional tensions between power companies and the solar industry.