Installing solar-plus-storage is a great way to save money. We all use electricity, and the electricity produced by solar panels is less expensive than what you would otherwise purchase from the grid, meaning solar can help you save significantly over decades while your panels are producing electricity. But solar and storage do more than just help you save on your own electricity bills: combined, they can help reduce the overall cost of electricity to the grid as a whole (see our recent guest post from Synapse Energy Economics).
While solar and storage systems have historically provided that benefit to the grid for free, that’s all changing: AutoGrid, a provider of AI-powered clean energy software solutions, now helps you get compensated for stabilizing the grid with their Flex Saver program. The best part? EnergySage is partnering with AutoGrid to put extra cash in the pockets of our customers who install solar and storage in California. Here’s how it works.
- AutoGrid allows you to be compensated for helping improve the stability of the grid, reducing emissions and costs for the grid as a whole
- The Flex Saver program provides a $1,000 incentive to solar-plus-storage owners in SCE’s service territory in California to use power from their batteries instead of the grid during periods of high demand
- EnergySage has partnered with AutoGrid to bring these benefits to our customers in California: get started with a solar-plus-storage system today to participate in this program, or click here if you live in California and already have solar and storage installed.
AutoGrid and the Flex Saver program
AutoGrid is a venture-backed cleantech company building AI-powered clean energy software applications. They have a suite of products providing utility-scale, commercial and residential energy solutions, from EV fleet management to microgrids, and from commercial demand response programs to distributed energy resource aggregation–like the Flex Saver program!
According to Guidehouse research, AutoGrid is the world’s #1 provider of virtual power plant solutions through their AutoGrid Flex platform. AutoGrid runs Flex Saver programs via this platform throughout California – in Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric and Clean Power Alliance utility service territories. At a high level, the Flex programs allow AutoGrid to aggregate consumer-sited resources (i.e., demand-side resources) to provide a greater impact at the grid-scale. These aggregated resources can replace the need for new and existing fossil fueled power, reducing both emissions and the electricity costs for everyone on the grid.
Why does this type of program work?
Energy markets are complex things but here’s our super quick rundown of what you need to know to understand how the Flex Saver program works:
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to maintain and operate a stable and reliable electricity grid so that when you flip a switch in your home, the lights go on. In deregulated energy markets in the U.S., each of those services has a price and a cost associated with it. Historically, these grid services have been provided by large, centralized power plants or grid-scale devices, like by synchronous condensers for inertia and frequency regulation. (Just trust us there.) But batteries can provide many of these grid services, especially when paired with solar panel systems. And many battery systems provide these types of services already, without necessarily receiving any benefit for doing so.
While access to a lot of these grid-services markets may be limited for individual solar and storage installations, an aggregator of demand-side resources like AutoGrid can pool these resources to provide the same benefit as a power plant or other grid-scale devices–a virtual power plant! (We’ll explain virtual power plants in more detail below.) This has two main benefits: first, it means that residential solar-plus-storage systems can combine to have a greater impact in contributing to the stabilization and reliability of the grid; and, second, it means that individual homeowners can access revenue streams that previously wouldn’t be available to them.
In the case of AutoGrid’s Flex Saver program in particular, the process is even simpler than this: at its core, the cost of electricity increases when demand increases. By pulling from batteries instead of the grid during periods of high demand, you can reduce the overall demand for electricity on the grid, which reduces the price of electricity during those time periods. It turns out that it’s cheaper to pay individual homeowners to reduce demand (via AutoGrid) than it is to build new power plants or to pay to run the infrequently-used, high-cost power plants.
What’s a virtual power plant?
While the history of the power grid in the U.S. has relied on large, centralized power plants, the increasing prevalence of distributed solar power plants on homes and businesses (~3 million and counting!) has shifted the narrative for electricity generation in the country. Instead of requiring or relying on one single, large producer of electricity, a virtual power plant aggregates many smaller, decentralized sources of generation (like solar) to provide the same benefits and effects as a grid-scale power plant. Check out our article about virtual power plants to learn more.
How to save money with AutoGrid’s Flex Saver program
The Flex Saver program is very straightforward: AutoGrid pays you in exchange for reducing your home’s demand on the grid during certain periods. And since this program requires participants to have a solar-plus-storage system installed, participants can reduce demand on the grid simply by using solar power stored in their batteries–no change in consumption patterns required!
Here’s what you can expect as a participant in the Flex Saver program:
- Participants will receive an incentive of $1,000, paid out over the course of the three year program.
- During the program, AutoGrid will make requests for you to use electricity from your battery instead of from the grid at times when the grid is stressed (typically summer weekdays between 4 and 9 pm), with requests lasting no more than a few hours. They’ll have access to your battery, and will “activate the advanced capabilities” of your storage system to help stabilize the grid.
- The program will never deplete your battery past a 20% charge, ensuring that you always have a reserve of backup energy in the event of a grid emergency. (And AutoGrid will never call an event during a public safety power shutoff or grid outage event.)
- AutoGrid anticipates 50 to 100 events across the three year program period.
- And, finally, participants must live in the Southern California Edison (SCE) utility service territory, and have a solar-plus-storage system installed.
Importantly, at the moment there are only two brands of batteries that qualify for the Flex Saver program: a sonnen battery or an LG Energy Solutions (formerly LG Chem) battery installed with a SolarEdge storage inverter. Since AutoGrid needs to be able to communicate with your battery system directly, as well as to see specific performance data (i.e., how did your battery respond to the request?), the program requires a special integration and partnership between AutoGrid and the battery or inverter manufacturer. AutoGrid is actively working on partnerships with different manufacturers: if you have another type of battery installed, keep an eye out for future announcements from AutoGrid about battery compatibility with the program.
At present, to participate in the Flex Saver program, you need to be a solar-plus-storage owner living in SCE’s service territory, with a sonnen or LG Energy Solutions battery. If you already fit that description, click here to learn more about and enroll in the AutoGrid Flex Saver program. If you live in SCE’s service territory and would like to participate in the program, EnergySage can help you get started. By signing up for a free account on EnergySage today, we’ll gather you custom solar and storage quotes from high quality solar installers in your area.