The Virtual Peaker Platform in 2023 & Beyond

It’s been a crazy year! Since 2015, our company has grown from just a few of us in Louisville to over 50 employees around the U.S., all working together to make the world a little greener than we found it by way of the Virtual Peaker platform. With the electric vehicle (EV) markets booming and broader distributed energy resource (DER) adoption in customers’ homes, utilities are challenged to keep up with an evolving grid. To meet the needs of our changing energy landscape, we’ve grown our team to continue to develop innovations for experienced partners, while supporting new partners just starting their DERMS journey. We were partially able to do this after raising 16.6 million this year in Series A funding, which has helped us keep pace with market demands.

Along with raising money to grow our team, we’ve built products that help DERMS programs grow faster. That’s why we’ve created our Gravity Connect® API to efficiently connect our utility partners with the OEMs they need to expand their programs. It’s why we’ve introduced our incentive processing solution, to streamline customer engagement, as well as our EV telematics tool, designed to provide actionable insights to utility program managers. We’re committed to assisting the just energy transition in any way that we can and are excited about what’s to come. So what should you expect from the Virtual Peaker platform in 2023? Read on to see what comes next!

Technical VPPs

Let’s talk about the promise of virtual power plant technologies, and how we’re developing them as part of the Virtual Peaker platform. With more DERs out there than ever, we saw an opportunity to help our utility partners find innovative ways to decarbonize, lower energy spending, and strengthen the grid.

Since we started, our mission has been and continues to be making electric demand as controllable as a gas turbine generator. We approached this goal by delivering services that utilities could easily implement, and that choice meant that we needed to focus on delivering what the market was asking for: a DERMS product designed for controlling and monitoring every type of connected residential device that consumes or produces large amounts of energy.

Today we’re fully integrated with nearly thirty connected device manufacturers, and we implement a high-performance, patented, perfectly scalable cloud-based real-time control system for every device in the network. Our Shift suite makes it easy to run demand response programs without worrying about the nuances of all of the different devices under control.

Glimpsing the Future

The next step needed to deliver on our goals for the Virtual Peaker platform was high-performance load forecasting tools with the accuracy and flexibility to predict load and available capacity into the future. So, we delivered our Envision product suite with a custom-built state-of-the-art machine learning operations (MLOps) platform that automatically trains ML models, routinely monitors the accuracy of the models and retrains as needed. The forecasts from the models are supremely accurate and deliver confidence intervals, which are needed to understand the potential variability of the forecast capacity.

The final step in executing our mission of making demand as controllable as a gas turbine generator is to knit the Shift suite together with the Envision suite to produce a true technical virtual power plant. In early 2023, we will implement virtual power plant technology for aggregating batteries, and then rapidly scale out the technology for other device types.

The goal is to produce a unified Virtual Peaker platform that includes different device types, e.g. batteries, water heaters, EVs, etc, and manufacturers, along with behavioral programs and other aggregators. Our virtual power plant solution will make it easy for grid operations and customer program teams to understand their available future demand capacity (with a probability estimate) and specify the top line of their demand curve with high levels of granularity. The days of guessing about the output of demand response programs will be gone forever.

Distribution System Modeling

We often hear from utilities interested in controlling demand in response to grid constraints. Until this point, we’ve implemented an extremely flexible system that allows utilities to group devices based on their own desires. We implemented a macros system that enabled powerful and flexible coordinated dispatch of these groups with a single click. So far, that’s been sufficient to meet utility needs.

In the coming year, we’re rolling out a hierarchical system that allows even more flexibility in arranging different groups and formations as part of the Virtual Peaker platform. This will ultimately help unlock new distribution grid constraint use cases and other forms of flexible aggregation. Grid operations teams will be able to align DERs even more easily with their distribution system, and together we will help further unlock the locational value of DERs.

Electric Vehicle Telematics

In the past year, we further expanded the tools in the Shift tool chest. Not only can users work with a wide range of EV chargers (V1G and V2G) in our platform to successfully execute their EV strategy, but they can also access direct visibility and control within the EVs themselves. To meet this challenge, we’ve developed a best-in-class platform for tracking and controlling EV charging via vehicle telematics and fully integrated it into our Shift suite. This product growth was a natural extension for Virtual Peaker.

API integrations are a core competency of the team, and the Shift suite, along with our impending solution for vehicle telematics, allows for the seamless integration of any new vehicle OEM into the Virtual Peaker platform. Our telematics system makes use of the rest of our high-performance DERMS platform, including data normalization and real-time control. This makes it easy to aggregate and control electric vehicles from different manufacturers alongside other device control programs without the need for managing another platform.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

Automobiles are the second biggest investment that most families make, apart from their homes. We understand the importance they have to the customer, and we protect and treat them as such. In 2022 we introduced the Relay suite for simple to implement, customizable customer engagement solutions. In 2023 we’re expanding our Relay suite to help utilities better engage EV drivers with customized branded platforms that help drivers save energy and money.

Customer Engagement

Did you know that increased customer satisfaction can lead to more revenue at utilities? Were you aware that happier utility customers can improve your environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) score, and that those scores can directly benefit your operation? Good customer service is more important than you might think, even at a natural monopoly. With great customer service, you can develop a rapport with your customers and, if you can find them at the right time and place, you can help develop your demand response and DER programs.

For better customer retention, we designed a message center within the Virtual Peaker platform that automatically sends multichannel messages triggered by the customer action or specific date and time. To increase the number of active participants we will deliver a Direct Messaging tool that helps to support customers in the program and automatically replies to all the ongoing questions. For suite users, we’ve continuously improved the House Details page to provide a 360-degree view of the homeowner’s account, and this year we made 3 key updates:

  1. We launched a user-friendly page design
  2. Introduced House Tags to make notes about the homeowner
  3. Delivered Custom Reporting Inputs feature that allows Utility to see and add program-level tags like “House with WiFi” or “Interested in EV program”

Next year we’ll add a history of messages sent to a customer; this house-level information will help the utility team see all the previous communications with a house, incentives sent, and more detailed information including delivery date and message types. In doing so, we hope to provide more tools for our utility partners to more efficiently and effectively reach their customers when they need them the most.

Conclusion: What to Expect From the Virtual Peaker Platform in 2023

Will 2023 be as crazy as 2022? So far, all signs point to yes. Whether it’s through the promise of the Inflation Reduction Act and the investments in renewable energies that it has already inspired, or through the development of innovative technologies, we’re confident that our time to help our utility partners new and old through further development of the Virtual Peaker platform is right now. What are you looking forward to the most? We look forward to seeing you this year at one of the conferences we attend, or by just connecting directly with you. So until next year, cheers!

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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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