Organizations across the globe are pursuing new approaches for reducing energy costs, enhancing energy-related sustainability, and bolstering energy resilience at an accelerating pace. Recently, I had an opportunity as a panelist to discuss new insights into the state of the energy transition at the 2023 CERAWeek conference that focuses on global energy trends. This year’s conference theme, “Navigating a Turbulent World: Energy, Climate and Security,” highlighted many of the new technologies that are helping to drive “smart” energy production, consumption, and management.
One key takeaway is that a new energy landscape is emerging in the form of prosumer or a bi-directional renewable energy from “behind-the-meter” resources. And how utilities and technology leaders will play a pivotal role is ushering in the technology and infrastructure to expand this promising market.
A promising prosumer market
The prosumer market, which consists of homeowners, commercial, and industrial facilities, presents a promising source of renewable energy. The growing prosumer market which produces, manages, and consumes its own energy can share surplus energy back to the grid. For example, a home with solar panels that has excess energy can feed that surplus back to the grid. On the commercial side, there are several applications. For example, consider a retailer operating 30 locations with rooftop solar installations. Whatever excess power the panels generate can either be fed back to the grid or stored on site.
The same goes for a fleet of electric school buses. When sitting unused in a parking lot during the time between pickups and drop-offs – or in the summer – significant battery capacity can be used through orchestrated charging and discharging with a virtual power plant (VPP) for aggregation and redistribution. As the world moves toward electrification, these types of scenarios will multiply, creating opportunities to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels by optimizing demand resources. However, to harness this energy particularly in distributed environments or at the edge, we need the right technology and infrastructure.
Building the prosumer infrastructure
This shift to a new energy landscape requires a new paradigm of instrumentation and technology to manage a system that relies much more on sources of power from the edge. Utilities can start to tap alternative solutions like VPPs versus building more power plants to meet capacity needs. Going this route not only reduces costs but also accommodates the demands of the prosumer movement by modifying energy usage on the demand side through smarter technology, education, and energy efficiency improvements.
To help utilities and power suppliers, Schneider Electric has built a comprehensive portfolio of software, hardware, and services to help manage the new energy landscape. Our recent acquisition AutoGrid, which develops intelligent systems to manage VPPs, is forming solid partnerships with utilities to drive more efficient energy demand/response transactions.
During CERAWeek, Microsoft launched its Energy Transition Center of Excellence, which features our prosumer solutions in the New Energy Landscape exhibit. This exhibit conveys the role each of us has in building this landscape with solutions designed for homes, buildings, and grid operators. A key enabler is AutoGrid’s virtual power plant technology, which aggregates energy data and uses communications technology to flow it back to the primary grid, thereby enabling bi-directional energy flows which enhance reliability and energy efficiency. Conference attendees and industry leaders witnessed how such technologies are accelerating the scale of the prosumer market while supporting the complex utility orchestration of distributed resources.
Schneider also works closely with organizations like General Motors and PG&E to promote high-sustainability energy solutions to modernize the grid. Such companies are experienced in leading the energy transition through technology innovation, helping utilities and consumers achieve long-term net zero goals.
Access eguide on growing prosumer market capabilities
The energy market is undergoing rapid and exciting changes for the better that will not only move us along on the path to net zero but also improve grid resiliency. At Schneider, we are excited to play a role in supporting this growing market with innovative technology and resources. To learn more, download the new eguide, “Grid to Prosumer” which includes recommendations and utility use cases that span from the utility control room to the prosumer.