In partnership with PLMA, this group is for practitioners from energy utilities, solution providers, and trade allies to share load management expertise and explore innovative approaches to program delivery, pricing constructs, and technology adoption.


Behind-The-Meter Innovations Proliferate

image credit: shutterstock.com1629219844
Fereidoon P. Sioshansi, Ph.D.'s picture
President, Menlo Energy Economics

Dr. Sioshansi is President of Menlo Energy Economics, a consulting firm based in San Francisco, California, advising clients on the rapid transformation of the electricity sector and emerging...

  • Member since 2004
  • 46 items added with 59,124 views
  • May 1, 2023

Historically, utilities paid scant attention to what customers did with electricity once it was delivered to them. The prime reason was that it wasn’t easy to monitor or measure when the electromechanical meters could barely keep track of the kWhs consumed. But today, smart meters can measure in real time and more devices on the customer’s side of the meter are getting smart and connected. This means that not just the total load, but its individual components can be monitored in real time. And as everyone knows, you can only manage what you can measure.

This phenomenon, broadly referred to as the digitalization of customer’s behind-the-meter loads is enabling smart aggregators to offer services that would have been impossible or prohibitively expensive until now. Two promising applications include vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and turning aggregated customers’ loads into virtual power plants (VPPs).

A recent White Paper from DNV documents the large potential benefits of leveraging the significant storage capacity of the fast-growing customer-owned electric vehicles (EVs) to enhance flexibility in power systems with obvious benefits to both EV owners and grid operators. The technology for vehicle-to-grid (V2G), vehicle-to-house, vehicle-to-vehicle and ultimately vehicle-to-everything (V2X) are poised for employment in markets where the penetration of EVs is high and the need for demand flexibility acute.

Likewise, applications for virtual power plants are proliferating at rapid pace especially in places with daily cycles of feast and famine, when renewable generation exceeds demand during certain hours while falling short at others. The grid can gain from an aggregated portfolio of BTM devices, which can soak up the excess generation while filling some of the gaps.

A recent report by Wood Mackenzie noted that California with its famous “duck curve” problem currently dominates the VPP market just as it does in solar and other renewable energy technologies. As reported in a 31 Mar 2023 article in the Utility Dive California is home to some 140 of the 500 VPPs currently operating in North America.

WoodMac defines a VPP as any initiative that aggregates customer-owned distributed energy resources (DERs) to provide services to utilities and wholesale energy markets. VPPs generally incorporate a combination of smart thermostat control, direct load control, battery storage, EVs, plus distributed rooftop solar generation. The largest VPP operators include CPower, Enel, AutoGrid and Voltus – companies previously featured in this newsletter. Most focus on commercial and industrial customers with direct load control and WoodMac claims that 7 have amassed portfolios of over 1 GW. That is equivalent to the output of 7 nuclear reactors – which incidentally operate as a baseload unit with virtually no flexibility.

What explains California’s lead? According to WoodMac,

“Market dynamics are primarily responsible for the rapid adoption of VPPs in California. The state energy demand charges surge during peak hours of the year, allowing VPPs to save money for participants …. (while profiting) … by selling emergency capacity services to utilities and regional transmission organizations. The (same applies to) … the next-large markets …. for which include New York, Texas and the PJM Interconnection.”

Companies such as CPower, Enel, AutoGrid and Voltus as well as countless others are entering the field enabled by the new technologies and the rising demand.


This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of EEnergy Informer, a monthly newsletter edited by Fereidoon Sioshansi who may be reached at


No discussions yet. Start a discussion below.

Fereidoon P. Sioshansi, Ph.D.'s picture
Thank Fereidoon P. for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network® is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »