PGE program will transform hundreds of homes into a virtual power plant

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Oregon Public Utility Commission gives residential battery storage pilot a green light

Portland General Electric Company is set to launch a pilot program that will incentivize installation and connection of 525 residential energy storage batteries that PGE will dispatch, contributing up to four megawatts of energy to PGE’s grid. The distributed assets will create a virtual power plant made up of small units that can be operated individually or combined to serve the grid, adding flexibility that supports PGE’s transition to a clean energy future. When the program launches this fall, incentives will be available to residential customers across PGE’s service area. Rebates will be available to customers within three neighborhoods participating in PGE’s Smart Grid Test Bed, and income-qualified customers participating in Energy Trust of Oregon’s Solar Within Reach offer.

PGE will study the full benefits that these distributed energy assets can provide the grid while also increasing resiliency for each participating customer. PGE will operate and test the benefits of using homes’ batteries, each capable of storing 12 to 16 kWh of energy, to optimize the use of renewable energy and grid capabilities. In the event of a power outage, participating customers can rely on them as a backup power resource.

“Our vision for clean energy relies on a smart, integrated grid. One of the ways that we’ll achieve that is through creative partnerships and diversified energy resources, including those behind-the-meter,” said Larry Bekkedahl, vice president of Grid Architecture, Integration and Systems Operation. “This pilot project will allow PGE to integrate even more intermittent renewable energy and enhance grid capabilities while also giving participating customers peace of mind in the event of an outage.”

Energy storage maximizes renewables and the grid, improves power quality

Energy storage is vital to help capture and store energy from renewable power sources, such as wind and solar, that are more variable. As a virtual power plant, the residential battery storage pilot will create a single resource that can help the grid balance energy production with energy demand, freeing up the generation resources that are typically held on standby, ready to kick in when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. As a clean energy option that takes the place of standby resources, the virtual power plant also gives customers access to reliable energy, even in the event of system outages.

The test program will also allow PGE to test new smart-grid control devices across its distribution system that will more effectively allow a two-way exchange between PGE and pilot participants. The new controls will more actively manage the way that electricity is distributed across PGE’s system to incorporate energy that customers generate, such as through solar panels, while also meeting power demand that is less predictable, such as for charging electric vehicles. The controls will allow PGE to more actively manage power distribution to improve power quality for all customers.

Select rebates and incentives will be available to participants

When it launches in fall 2020, participation in the program will be available to residential customers, including:

  • Those across PGE’s service area who already have or are installing a qualifying battery. Participation will require an application, and in exchange for allowing PGE to operate their battery for grid services, participating customers will receive a monthly bill credit of $40, or $20 if the battery is charged with solar power.
  • Customers across PGE’s service area who are participating in the Solar Within Reach offering from Energy Trust of Oregon. Participants will be eligible for a $5,000 instant rebate in addition to the monthly bill credits.
  • Those living within the PGE Smart Grid Test Bed who purchase a battery will be eligible for an instant rebate, in addition to the monthly bill credit of $40 or $20, which will allow PGE to test the localized grid impact of having a large concentration of battery storage devices available on one substation.

PGE is working with Energy Trust to cost-effectively procure the residential battery storage systems by leveraging the existing Solar incentive program infrastructure and trade ally contractor network. Customers who participate in the program will own their battery systems, and rebates will only be available for systems installed by an Energy Trust solar trade ally. The program may also accept customers with a qualifying battery that is was previously installed, following a process to ensure safe operation.

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