The value that led Enel to buy Demand Energy

Demand Energy installations are impressive... but it's the invisible energy storage software controlling them that is the real attraction for Enel. Pic: Demand Energy

Demand Energy installations are impressive… but it’s the invisible energy storage software controlling them that is the real attraction for Enel. Pic: Demand Energy.

By Jason Deign

Enel’s buyout of US project developer Demand Energy last week was largely down to a secret ingredient that has been cooking for several years.

While Washington State-based Demand Energy has a decent portfolio of projects in New York and closed last year with a microgrid deal in Costa Rica, the real lure for Enel is understood to have been its software platform, DEN.OS.

DEN.OS, which stands for ‘Distributed Energy Network Optimization System’, is a cloud-based platform for integrating energy storage and distributed generation that Demand Energy has perfected over the last eight years.

A critical early challenge facing the company was how to adapt its software to work in New York, a market characterised by longer-duration storage applications.

The market was of interest because the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision plan was creating new opportunities for storage to complement distributed generation in reducing demand, shifting load and adding resiliency. 
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P2P energy player lobbies for storage

Battery storage in P2P energy networks could help businesses such as the Eden Project save money. (Pic: Jürgen Matern)

Battery storage in P2P energy networks could help businesses such as the Eden Project save money. (Pic: Jürgen Matern)

By Jason Deign

Peer-to-peer (P2P) power supplier Open Utility is planning to pressure the UK electricity market regulator towards introducing grid-balancing measures that could include energy storage.

The company, which runs an energy marketplace called Piclo, hopes to convince the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) that P2P networks are good for consumers and distributed generation asset owners.

“There are significant benefits in better balancing renewables and demand on a local electricity network,” said James Johnston, Open Utility’s CEO and co-founder. “Energy storage will be key in enabling this balancing.”

Currently, he said, UK regulations do little to encourage the use of energy storage in P2P networks. Piclo, which allows businesses to buy renewable power directly from source, does not currently include storage, for example.

However, Johnston said: “If regulations allow for it, incentivising local balancing using P2P energy matching could unlock significant financial rewards for local consumers and generators.”
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Will this be the year of energy storage software?

Will 2016 be the year of energy storage software and virtual power plants? We look at developments from companies who are driving the industry like Greensmith, Autogrid Systems and Electro Power Systems, Sonnenbatterie and LichtBlick.

Energy storage software and virtual power plants: We look at developments from companies driving the industry, like Greensmith, Autogrid Systems and Electro Power Systems, Sonnenbatterie and LichtBlick. Photo: Electro Power Systems

By Jason Deign

Recent announcements have signalled growing interest in the development of software systems that can tie energy storage assets together to form virtual power plants.

Last month, for example, the European utility E.ON joined American Electric Power as a major investor in Greensmith, one of the world’s largest providers of energy storage software and integration services.

Meanwhile the energy analytics software firm AutoGrid Systems, of Redwood in California, USA, joined forces with Paris-based hydrogen storage developer Electro Power Systems to build and operate “software-defined power plants.”

The December announcements follow a growing number of energy storage software developments in 2015.

E.ON’s interest in Greensmith, for example, could be seen as countermeasure against Sonnenbatterie’s November announcement of a community based energy-trading platform in Germany.
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The storage player taking on utilities

Sonnenbatterie is going to take on utilities, with a residential P2P energy trading model using battery energy storage in Germany. Photo: Sonnenbatterie eco

Sonnenbatterie is taking on utilities in Germany, with a residential P2P energy trading model that uses its Sonnenbatterie eco battery energy storage system and an innovative software platform. Photo credit: Sonnenbatterie

By Jason Deign

An energy storage player could become the first company to seriously undermine the utility business model following an announcement being made today. Sonnenbatterie, a storage firm with around 50% of the residential battery market in Germany, has unveiled a community energy exchange model that could in theory allow users to swap electricity and cut out utilities altogether. The concept has already been pioneered by German companies such as LichtBlick and confirms the importance of residential storage in creating peer-to-peer energy trading networks.

What sets Sonnenbatterie apart is the sophistication of its model. “We know LichtBlick is going in the same direction and we are ahead of [them],” said Sonnenbatterie’s managing director, Philipp Schröder.

The company is offering to give its 8,000 or so German customers access to a software platform that it says could cut electricity costs by 25%.
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Greensmith: segment-specific products in view

With new investment, Greensmith Energy Management Systems is set to develop sector-specific energy storage software packages and to expand internationally.

With new investment, Greensmith Energy Management Systems is developing sector-specific energy storage software packages and expanding internationally. Photo: Greensmith

By Jason Deign

Greensmith, the storage control system developer, is setting its sights on the development of sector-specific software packages after releasing new aggregation functionality this month.

Long-term the company is hoping to have a portfolio of sector-specific software packages similar to those found in enterprise resource planning, according to John Jung, chief executive.

Jung also told Energy Storage Report that Greensmith was planning to expand beyond its US homeland next year, with partnerships planned for next year across Europe and Asia.

It is already working beyond US borders, in Australia and Canada. “In places like the UK and Germany I’d be very surprised if we are not doing a number of projects in 2016,” Jung said.

“I think Korea, Japan and China also are major targets for us in 2016. Our approach to penetration isn’t to set up shop independently but to really work with the local power value chain that is already set up and established.

“We definitely expect to establish some base camps in some of those key countries.”
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How can customers trade energy with batteries?

Reposit Power, with its solar battery storage trading and control platform, is one of the companies helping residents in Australia make money by selling stored energy to the grid. Photo credit: Australian Government

Reposit Power, with its solar battery storage trading and control platform, is one of the companies helping residents in Australia sell their stored energy to the grid. Photo credit: Australian Government

By Dr Geoff James
Previously published on www.energystorageforum.com and republished with permission.

When people buy batteries for their homes, they mainly expect to have more energy independence.

But a sophisticated battery system can do more than providing secure backup power or soaking up the output of rooftop PV panels, as a rain tank catches rain.

Considering the whole electricity system, batteries can also resolve the variability of solar and wind energy, paving the way towards a cleaner, greener grid.

This is called ‘balancing the grid’ and batteries are excellent at short-term balancing over seconds, minutes and hours. The best part? There is money to be made from it.
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Three ways to increase adoption

1Energy Systems

Pic courtesy of 1Energy Systems

Positive indicators for the forward march of energy storage continue to abound, such as the inclusion of the sector in McKinsey Global Institute’s list of 12 Disruptive Technologies That Are Changing The World. Meanwhile, ASD Reports forecasts the grid-scale battery market will top USD$1 billion for the first time by the end of the year and Lux Research projects more than 10 times that figure in 2017.

But as we’re always asking at Energy Storage Report, where is all this lovely money going to come from? The first answer is software. 1Energy, a startup from Seattle, USA, is looking for a way to improve the interoperability of large-scale batteries and thus allow the seamless use of different battery types in one energy storage project.

“We envision a future when there are various storage sockets, if you will… and battery manufacturers can sell energy storage in the same way a transformer manufacturer would sell catalogue products to the utility today,” David Kaplan, the company’s chief executive, told the Electricity Storage Association annual conference this month.

By overcoming the lack of scalability and modularity through software, Kaplan thinks utilities will be far happier to commit to battery energy storage as they would not be tied to one supplier. Another option for adoption, and probably the most newsworthy, is the possibility of tax credits for energy storage in the US.

The Storage Technology for Renewable and Green Energy Act was introduced in the 112th Congress with bipartisan support and now has been re-introduced. If passed, it would allow credits for almost all types of energy storage.

And a third adoption driver could be from improving relations between technology suppliers and large corporations, financiers, government, educational and other bodies to form what Lux Research describes as “megaclusters”, with complex, interlocking relationships (as reported in Renewable Energy World). If you aware of any other initiatives, tell us.

ZEN improves domestic energy storage

The South Australian firm ZEN claims that its active balancing battery management system halves the expense of storing electricity, compared to other lithium-ion units, reports the Brisbane Times. ZEN is primarily a software company, rather than a conventional battery manufacturer, and has applied its expertise to batteries produced by its sister company, the US-based Greensmith Energy Management Systems.

The 20kWh Freedom PowerBank is the size of a large fridge and currently retails at AUD$30,000 (USD$31,000), although the company hopes this will go down to AUD$20,000 once production is ramped up. The company hopes the unit will find favour with those wanting to store low-cost, night-time electricity for use in the day, when prices can go up by a factor of five. It would also benefit those wanting to dispense entirely with their grid supplier.