Recap: The Virtual Peaker Empower Innovation Forum 2022

It’s the Friday after the Virtual Peaker Empower Innovation Forum 2022, and while we’d love to take a short break to take a breath, we have far too much to accomplish in helping our utility partners existing or soon-to-be to stop. After setup on Tuesday and a unique opening reception at a fascinating local speakeasy that evening, we kicked off the Empower Innovation Forum 2022 with an update from our CEO Bill Burke on all of the work we’ve accomplished over the past year, as well as exciting product enhancements that are in the works for our distributed energy resource management system (DERMS), forecasting, and customer engagement suites. Still, there was so much to learn from our various speakers, panels, and the idle talk we had with our customers, device partners, and industry colleagues. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Virtual Power Plants Are Coming

If you can’t tell, we’re rather enamored by the concept of virtual power plants, so much so that we named our company after them. At the time, that seemed like a reasonable, if unrealized, technological opportunity, although the times they are a changing. Between the continued challenges of the climate crisis, shifts in legislative policy, and a burgeoning prosumer-base driving massive electric vehicle (EV) and distributed energy resource (DER) adoptions, virtual power plants have shifted from a possibility to a reality. Because of that, VPP technology is radically altering DER management strategies by leveraging artificial intelligence and real-time data analytics tools to better serve the community. And that means better grid resilience and lowered energy spending while meeting global (and local) decarbonization goals.

Utilities & the Value of Customer Service

As the utility industry evolves to meet prosumer DER adoption, the virtues of customer/member engagement have come into stark focus. We were joined yesterday by representatives from PG&E, Hoosier Energy, and SMUD to discuss the difficulties of managing customer/member expectations within the boundaries of a demand flexibility program. One recurring thread was the shared challenge of sending the right messaging at the right time to reach the optimal audience. These challenges underscore the growing widespread interest in renewable energy technologies like distributed energy resources (DER) as one of many solutions to the evolving climate crisis. From finding the most efficient API to connect utilities with OEMs to localized messaging, good customer service adds an immeasurable value to any operation.

All the Buzz Around the Inflation Reduction Act

Keynote speaker Bryce Yonker from GridForward joined us to share his optimism over the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a feeling that we completely understand! Grid resiliency was a big topic, especially after a particularly challenging summer of heatwaves and rolling blackouts, so the funding promised by the IRA to strengthen the grid is not just invaluable, but timely! Yonker led a riveting discussion on the bureaucratic complexities of the IRA, specifically on the potential that this unlocks for utilities and technology partners around the U.S. The capital involved in the IRA remains as exciting now as when it was initially released, and although there are still questions aplenty regarding how best to tap into these resources, the consensus is overwhelmingly positive! Let’s go!

Equity and Energy Justice Are Being Centered

Keynote speaker Dr. Sanya Carley, co-director of Indiana University’s Energy Justice Lab, gave a robust speech on equity within the just energy transition. Dr. Carley provided examples of energy insecurity, as well as the e-waste part and parcel of emerging green technologies. On Thursday, a group of panelists from both the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Lab continued the conversation about the energy transition, specifically an equitable shift that brings everyone, not just the well-to-do, along. That means the need for greater demand flexibility opportunities that the IRA will help progress through further funding in non-wired alternatives, greater battery storage capabilities, and an ability to better forecast potential energy needs in an area to both reduce energy spending and ensure continuity of service. 

Conclusion: Virtual Peaker Empower Innovation Forum 2022

What a week. From setup to breakdown, Virtual Peaker did as we do, and came together to connect with the community around us to host the best version of the Empower Innovation Forum 2022 possible. That includes all of the opportunities we had to meet and learn from our partners and guests, as well as the opportunity to just enjoy our time together. Ultimately, the entire company is founded on that principle: to leave the world a little better than we found it. Hearing that energy shared in one room from a chorus of voices only reinforced our belief that we can solve the challenges of tomorrow today by working together. 

Hosting the Empower Innovation Forum 2022 was a lot of very satisfying work, and we’re already planning for what comes next. What was your takeaway? What would you like to see next year? By taking our State of DERs Survey below, we can help plan for engaging content around the distributed energy resources that utilities need to enhance their demand flexibility initiatives.

Take our Survey on the State of DERs in 2022

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About The Author
Virtual Peaker Team blog author

Virtual Peaker is a remote-first company based in Louisville, KY, with employees in many time zones. Since 2015, Virtual Peaker has worked to help our utility partners around the world build a better, greener grid through scalable, cloud-based software solutions. Founded by Bill Burke, Virtual Peaker has grown to serve utility DER and demand response management needs, as well as providing resources to help utilities meet decarbonization regulations and grid reliability.

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