Biden Admin Report Envisions Future Where Utilities Moderate Electricity Demand Via Your Car And Appliances

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The Biden administration is pushing for utility companies to use electric products as a means to control the level of strain placed on the electric grid by consumers, according to a new report issued by the Department of Energy (DOE).

The report is a “call to action” that details how utilities could nationally standardize and build out “virtual power plants” (VPPs) to manage electricity demand in a future where solar and wind are relied upon to supply base load power that fossil fuel facilities overwhelmingly provide now. VPPs are networks of smaller energy storage or production devices, like solar panels and batteries, that are combined together to support an energy grid, whether being accessed to meet high demand or saved for later use during periods of lower demand, according to Reuters.

“Example functions of VPPs on the market today include shifting the timing of EV charging to avoid overloading local distribution system equipment, supplying homes with energy from onsite solar-plus-storage systems during peak hours to reduce demand on the bulk power system, charging distributed batteries at opportune times to reduce utility-scale solar curtailment” and “dispatching energy from commercial EV batteries back to the grid,” according to the DOE report. (RELATED: Top Biden Energy Official Says It’s Unsustainable To Replace Gas Cars With EVs, Suggests Ways To Decrease Driving)

The report touts VPPs as a way to reduce electricity costs from the green energy grid of the future, saying that “VPPs can increase the grid’s capacity to serve growing electricity consumption by shifting or shedding demand to shrink peaks and reduce the need for peaking generation assets” like coal plants. The DOE’s VPP plan calls for incentives for consumers to subscribe to the program, with the underlying idea that the incentives compensate for modifying their use of the grid to accommodate its limitations.

“The most common way that VPPs provide energy today is to reduce demand during supply-constrained hours,” the report states. “In addition to decreasing demand during supply-constrained hours, VPPs can also increase demand during times of excess supply—e.g., by charging batteries or turning on EV chargers.”

The report says that smart thermostats can be used to pre-heat or pre-cool buildings before a period of elevated strain on the grid, and that pre-heating water with VPP water heaters would be an “imperceptible” change for subscribers. EVs, meanwhile, can be worked into the VPP system with unidirectional or bidirectional charging systems.

The VPP plan also has a racial element to its implementation, as a goal outlined in the DOE’s report is to “create equitable access” to the program.

Neither the White House nor the DOE responded immediately to requests for comment.

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