Sustainability in the New Year: Virtual Peaker in 2021 & Beyond

It’s easy to reflect on any challenging year with cynicism, especially the sophomore year of a deadly pandemic or given the political upheaval that kicked off 2021 in the United States. Despite that, Virtual Peaker has not only persevered but thrived, nearly doubling our staff, implementing our remote-first work initiative, and innovating with new sustainability initiatives in our fight against global warming. This year, we saw unprecedented blackouts in Texas and more extreme weather events that continue to challenge the grid. In the U.S., we’ve seen the struggles to pass a much-needed infrastructure bill that parallels our mission to empower the modern utility. Because we understand the operational and economic challenges of running a DER program, we’ve transitioned to a suites-based SaaS model, allowing utility providers to balance cost and need as they scale their operations. 

Why A Suites Model

Whether you’re looking to enhance your demand response programs or you’re anticipating the impact of EV charging on the grid, whatever your DER management needs, we have a solution. For some, a purpose-built DERMS is the ideal unifying solution to their programmatic needs. But that approach can be costly, time-consuming, and unwieldy. In other cases, utility providers implement vendor-led solutions to their program management needs, ceding power to third-party providers. Our solution is simple: create a scalable, flexible suites-based model that allows utility providers to get what they want with the opportunity to scale up with our integrated solutions as they need it. 

Our new suites include:

  • Virtual Peaker Shift – Our DERMS suite, designed to manage your residential electric demand.
  • Virtual Peaker Relay – From incentive processing to enrollment and more, our customer engagement suite connects utilities to their customers.
  • Virtual Peaker Envision – With our forecasting suite, utilities can plan for tomorrow with historical and real-time data to manage demand events and navigate the complexities of program design and power purchasing.

As we remain focused on sustainability, that list could grow. For now, though, we’re thrilled that we’re able to help our utility partners to realize their programmatic goals as simply and effectively as possible. 

Customer Engagement Suite

Driving customer engagement is critical to the long-term success of any DER program, which requires customer buy-in and continued participation. Our customer engagement suite, Relay, was designed to streamline your participant communications, from assisting in enrollment and incentive processing to customer education. It’s hard to say what motivates customer engagement, but while we feel notifications aren’t enough, we do believe in the power of incentives and education. Recognizing that incentives drive customer engagement, Relay makes processing customer incentives like checks, e-gift cards, gift cards, prepaid digital cards, donations, bill credits, or cashback. 

We’re always growing our utility partnerships, which this year included Endeavour Energy from Australia. In response to their needs, we built customer leaderboards to gamify customer engagement. Through gamification, utility providers and beyond can encourage healthy competition to challenge customers to engage in sustainability initiatives. We’re excited to see where that goes and always eager to learn new ways to inspire utility customers to conserve or engage in green technologies.

Load Forecasting Suite

Each of our diverse array of utility partners is a little different in how they supply electricity to their customers. In some cases that means buying power from other utility providers, which can prove costly. To help meet sustainability goals, that means determining peak load times, or how to best determine when to call a demand response event whether that’s in the summer or winter. With extreme weather events and global temperatures on the rise, how can you plan for anything? Those uncertainties are what led us to our forecasting suite, Envision, which helps utilities determine their best course of action for power planning and event calling. Our forecasting suite is designed to minimize the guesswork, with features that account for both historical and real-time data to help both your event management, but also your program design

Electric Vehicles & EV Charging

This year was a banner year for electrification efforts in general, and electric vehicle (EV) adoption in specific. In 2021, President Joe Biden made historic proposals for investing in an electrified future, including committing to the infrastructure needed to realize these investments. In part, these initiatives are driven by global sustainability and decarbonization efforts, which have further incentivized lawmakers to effect strong policies to move away from fossil fuels. 

With more electric vehicles (EVs) on the market and even more to come, EV charging is set to reimagine the modern grid. EV charging challenges the grid by changing the times that people use electricity the most. Since EV batteries are distributed energy resources, they offer vehicle to the grid (V2G) charging opportunities for enterprising utility providers. Because of this, we’re hard at work to refine and develop our EV charging suite of the future, to empower utility operations to meet customers where they are, and to support innovative rate design. The enthusiasm behind EV adoption is electric, and we’re happy to rethink what that future might look like for our utility partners. 

Virtual Peaker in 2021 & Beyond Conclusion

Like I mentioned above: it’s been an interesting and, in many ways, exciting year. We’ve learned together how to work apart by enabling our employees to work asynchronously. This reflects our sustainability efforts, it protects our people, and we’ve done all this without sacrificing our culture. We’re already gearing up for upcoming trade show events in 2022, we’re looking forward to our growing utility and device partners, and we’re planning all kinds of fun ways to reach out to our community near and far alike. We’re excited for you to see everything that’s to come and nerding out a little on all the cool things on the horizon. Have a Happy New Year and see you in 2022!

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About The Author
Bill Burke blog author

Bill is a serial entrepreneur with a PhD from UC Berkeley in Controls and Artificial Intelligence and 10 years of experience with high performance residential energy management and connected appliances. He was previously at GE as an Advanced Systems Engineer in the Connected Home Software Group, but left that role in May 2014 to pursue entrepreneurship full time. Bill grew up in Louisville and returned with his family in 2010 after a long stint in the San Francisco Bay Area. He loves Louisville and is working to make it a better and more attractive city for high tech startups.

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