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Google leads electricity deal

Alan Neuhauser
Apr 6, 2022
Illustration of a pattern of light switches, all of them turned on except one.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A trio of marquee clean-energy players are enabling PJM Interconnection, the nation's largest competitive wholesale electricity market, to reduce load by expanding demand-response to residential customers' thermostats.

Why it matters: Demand-response programs can help utilities and others avoid costly upgrades by enabling them to rein in demand at peak times, and help utilities and grid operators make better use of smart devices.

The details: Google Nest, Voltus and Resideo (NYSE: REZI) are introducing this capability through a "bring your own thermostat" program.

  • The program is being rolled out to select customers served by PPL Electric Utilities in Pennsylvania.
  • The effort will allow PJM Interconnection to dial back customers' HVAC systems when load is peaking, effectively allowing the grid operator to control one of the most energy-hungry consumer systems on the grid.
  • Homeowners who participate will get a $50 e-gift card and potential further benefits, the program's organizers tell Axios.

Catch up fast: Voltus has developed software technology to help manage distributed resources. The company in December announced plans to go public via SPAC, with a valuation of $1.3 billion.

  • Resideo, a spinoff of Honeywell, provides smart devices and other home tech, as well as a distributed energy resource management system.

Go deeper: With the launch, the three companies say they're focusing on electricity markets that don't already have incentive programs in place for demand-response.

  • They estimate that about half of electricity customers in the U.S. don't have access to a thermostat-related demand-response program, Google Nest and Resideo tell Axios.

What they're saying: "As the grid is evolving, as there’s more renewables, there's more need for controllable load at the wholesale market level," Dave Oberholzer, a general manager at Resideo, tells Axios.

  • "The program we're doing here is to get experience in the wholesale markets with distributed residential load," he adds, "so that when the time comes, and when there's solar and wind that need to be accounted for as far as variable generation, there's variable load there that's available at the wholesale market."
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