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Voltus' filing, funding and deal show demand response aggregation's time may have come

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Peter Key's picture
Freelance Writer, Editor, Consultant, Self-employed

I've been a business journalist since 1985 when I received an MBA from Penn State. I covered energy, technology, and venture capital for The Philadelphia Business Journal from 1998 through 2013....

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  • Nov 12, 2020

The San Francisco-based company that has filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to expand its ability to offer its demand response services in more of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s territory recently raised $25 million in venture capital.

Voltus, which raised the money in a Series B round, also recently reached a deal to allow Plano, Texas-based energy and facility management company NexRev to offer its demand response services through NexRev’s Freedom Choice building management system.

Voltus’ funding and deal with NexRev show that others share the sentiment it expressed in its FERC filing that “… the full capabilities of demand response technology remain largely untapped.”

The company wants to tap more of them in MISO’s footprint but says in its FERC complaint that it is prevented from doing so by provisions in MISO’s tariff that allow states to block third-party demand response providers from participating in the grid operator’s wholesale market.

Those provisions, Voltus’ says, allow it to operate only in a small part of MISO’s territory that consists of the parts of Illinois and Texas served by MISO; Michigan, where it can serve the 10 percent of load that is allowed to buy competitive electricity supply; and the areas served by a small number of municipal and cooperative utilities.

In its complaint, Voltus asks FERC to find that the provisions in MISO’s tariff that allow states to bar third-party demand response providers from participating in MISO’s wholesale market are inconsistent with the jurisdictional provisions of the Federal Power Act; not just and reasonable; and unduly discriminatory and preferential.

Voltus also wants FERC to issue an order finding that certain relevant electric retail regulatory authorities in MISO issued prohibitions against third party demand response providers in a manner inconsistent with the terms of a FERC regulation and that the prohibitions are therefore void.

Thanks to its recent funding, Voltus is poised to take advantage of a favorable FERC ruling if it gets one. The company said it plans to use the money it raised in the financing to add employees, develop additional products and enter new markets.

NexRev, meanwhile, says its arrangement with Voltus allows its Freedom Choice customers to use the building management system to make money.

“Execution of a demand response program across a large portfolio has been difficult in the past, but the working partnership between NexRev and Voltus has simplified the process for our customers," said NexRev CEO Kenneth Smith.

Rao Konidena's picture
Rao Konidena on Nov 12, 2020

Peter - I am also watching this Voltus complaint. With the recent change in FERC leadership, I don't know what impact if any on this complaint.

Even though this complaint is focused on demand response aggregation, there is a lot to be said of implications to the distributed energy resource aggregation. For example, grid operators who have experience dealing with DR aggregators are most likely well positioned to accept bids and dispatch aggregated DER.

Peter Key's picture
Peter Key on Nov 12, 2020


I agree and I'm sure Voltus would too since it describes itself as a distributed energy platform.



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