California Utilities Enlist Swell Energy to Expand Virtual Power Plants


Swell Energy Inc. is working with three California utilities on pilot projects to expand grid services use cases for residential solar+storage resources to meet both local and regional energy needs.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) are working with Swell to expand residential participation in their respective Capacity Bidding Programs. Through these programs, homeowners with solar + storage systems can receive compensation for supporting overall grid reliability while maintaining reserves in their battery for emergency use. These efforts support the California Public Utility Commission’s goal of reducing load during California Independent System Operator emergency power events.

For PG&E, Swell will enroll existing and new residential solar + storage customers into the Capacity Bidding Program and collectively manage the systems to provide needed capacity during times of high demand or high wholesale market prices. For SDG&E, Swell is expanding residential participation in its program, which was previously only offered to commercial and industrial customers. In addition, Swell is helping SDG&E evaluate different scenarios in which residential solar + storage systems could be used to improve the overall reliability of the grid in the context of SDG&E’s specific goals and constraints.

“I participated because for 30 years I have believed that distributed solar could provide a major solution to the climate crisis brought on by greenhouse gas emissions,” says Steven Marks, a Swell customer. “Swell’s initiative is a step in the right direction. My experience with the program has been nothing but positive. I noticed no difference in service or solar system performance and felt good about being able to participate.”

Swell is also working on virtual power plant applications with Southern California Edison (SCE). In addition to the two existing virtual power plants Swell has with SCE, the smart grid solutions provider is facilitating expanded applications for residential solar + storage assets to balance energy on the grid across a number of different scenarios and use cases. The effort with SCE could expand the use of aggregated residential solar + storage resources into virtual power plants to maximize environmental benefits and improve power reliability for SCE customers.

All three programs align with California Public Utility Commission goals to improve power reliability in the face of more frequent extreme weather events. By expanding residential participation in utility capacity programs and helping utilities maximize the benefits distributed solar + storage systems can provide, Swell is helping meet the state’s projected energy needs next summer and beyond. With the right grid services and participation levels, these programs help utilities and the California Public Utilities Commission meet California’s mandates for renewable energy while improving power reliability and minimizing costs to ratepayers associated with building additional standby ‘peaker plants’ that are infrequently used.

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