Renewable Energy Resilience

Nanogrids, Microgrids and Virtual Power Plants

Expert on new energy business models such as nanogrids, microgrids and virtual power plants, covering cutting edge energy and environmental issues for over 25 years.

Integrating Transactive Energy into Virtual Power Plants - How So?

The concepts of virtual power plants (VPPs) and transactive energy (TE) are similar in that they place prosumers—formerly passive consumers that now also produce energy—front and center in an emerging market for grid services delivered by distributed energy resources (DER).

Navigant Research believes that the future of energy rests on the foundation of cleaner, distributed, and intelligent networks of power. The VPP model presents a compelling vision of the future, as does TE. When combined, new revenue streams for diverse energy market stakeholders are inevitable. The biggest question is: What portion of the VPP/TE vortex of possibilities will find its way into prosumer pockets?

Much more work needs to be done to flesh out these prospective advances, but in a new report entitled VPP Transactive Revenue Streams, I identify six grid services that I predict could become enhanced by integrating TE within the VPP framework. Much more work needs to be doneto put money into stakeholder pockets, so I’ve also briefly identified the regulatory challenges that need to be addressed to make these revenue streams real:

·         Localized clean energy:How can previous policy vehicles such as net metering and feed-in tariffs be accommodated or revised (or eliminated altogether) to shift from subsidy schemes to a more transparent market locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally? TE platforms operating within VPPs may be a good starting point to explore how to move in this new direction.

·         Virtual capacity:Just as consumer supports need to be revisited for solar PV and other distributed generation, so do somewhat arcane assumptions governing determinations of resource adequacy for wholesale system planning. Perhaps exit fees and demand charges are obsolete in a DER-rich future. What are new ways to monetize the actual non-generation-related services a power grid provides?

·         Real-time Demand Response: More sophisticated load-based demand response will be part of the tool kit to displace ramping fossil fuel generators up and down in response to variations in solar and wind. Harvesting load will be one of the key innovations to benefit from TE-based blockchain ledger systems.

·         Fast frequency Regulation: While the VPP seeks to provide creative fast frequency response, the sources of such services are still often spread far apart. In an ideal world, localized generation, energy storage, and load could be marshalled to address frequency challenges to the grid. How can we integrate locational benefits in the pricing of such grid services?

·         Smart voltage control:The proliferation of smart inverters onto the grid represent a rich resource portfolio that can be monetized in multiple ways. TE trades would enable a similar value proposition as fast frequency response. The same challenges to pricing locational benefits apply.

·         Big data from small sources:A VPP supported by TE must rely on accurate and timely data, analytics, and insights. While prosumers may not reap large profits from the data they provide via TE, ESPs and distribution system operators may view this as the largest revenue streams flowing from the digital grid utility transformation.

Do VPPs create opportunities for TE revenue streams or vice versa? Most likely, these two DER platforms will evolve in parallel. DER management systems that can harmonize VPP and TE platforms must incorporate market pricing mechanisms to reflect the changing value of millions of connected endpoints throughout the day. That’s a supreme challenge, which also translates into a major revenue stream opportunity for the Energy Cloud ecosystem.


©2016 Peter Asmus. Photo credit: David Clites. Website by: