Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards recognize bold business ideas that make the world a better place. This year, in the Sustainability/Energy category, the magazine is honoring AutoGrid’s customer CLP Power, the utility serving Hong Kong. Specifically, CLP’s “Energy-Saving Missions” demand-side flexibility program demonstrated the collective power of prosumers to help solve challenges to the power grid in the most efficient and sustainable way possible.
Demand flexibility is one of the most effective answers to grid supply challenges as they accelerate due to increased electrification and demand, solar and wind variability, and extreme weather and other climate-driven threats. AutoGrid’s pioneering AI-driven Flex™platform helps power providers such as CLP forecast and re-shape demand while dispatching capacity from distributed energy resources (DERs): residential solar, electric vehicles, smart thermostats, and other devices.
In the face of July 2021’s extreme heatwave, CLP Power’s Energy-Saving Missions program was able to curtail power consumption across 600,000 Hong Kong households. By turning down air conditioners and turning off non-essential devices that consume electricity, CLP Power’s army of citizen volunteers saved a total of 300,000 kilowatt hours of electricity over a four-hour period. This watershed moment led to a reduction in carbon emissions of more than 110 tons, while also avoiding a blackout — which could have been catastrophic for residents and businesses alike.
By incentivizing everyday people with rewards, through food coupons, supermarket vouchers and smart state-of-the-art electrical appliances, CLP Power inspired an economically diverse community to become the kind of prosumers now required to meet the climate change challenge. The program proved to the world that AI technology, combined with creative incentives and smart meters, can inspire consumers to participate in climate action. With the right technology and market signals, citizens from all walks of life can indeed work together for a collective cause.
People vs. Peakers
Hong Kong’s shining example of demand flexibility at scale has direct relevance to the U.S. and other parts of the globe. The “Energy-Saving Missions” program is a verified proof point that the world now has the capability of leveraging as many as a million devices through AI technology to displace the most expensive and polluting resources that make up the power generation system – so-called fossil fueled peaker power plants. Peaking power plants are common forms of backup to handle spikes in demand. Unused during the majority of the year, peakers make up for lost time by delivering some of the grid’s most valuable electricity with a significant downside: the worst pollution from any other single type of electric resource, despite short periods of use. And peakers are disproportionately located in or near underserved communities, impacting public health among some of the most vulnerable populations.
This demand flexibility model as an alternative to reliance upon fossil peakers reached unprecedented scale during the summer of 2022, which witnessed a number of record-breaking events. In the U.S., the third hottest summer on record put many western states, including California and Texas, on the brink of power collapse. Similar issues were felt in China, where a number of cities experienced rolling blackouts as a result of a record heat wave and accompanying drought. Hong Kong was a remarkable exception.
Act Local, Think Global
CLP’s “Energy-Savings Missions” program is just one example of how today AutoGrid is supporting businesses, communities and individuals toward a future that embraces DERs to better support the grid and the planet. By controlling residential thermostats, residential and commercial energy storage, microgrids, and fleets of electric vehicles/chargers, AutoGrid’s virtual power plants (VPPs) help make the grid more reliable, cost effective, and sustainable. To date, AutoGrid has dispatched 1,000 peak demand events and saved over 10 GWh of electricity in support of grid emergencies across the globe through its proprietary software analytics and the concept of VPPs.Whether employing sophisticated AI-driven technology or empowering and incentivizing individual prosumers to take action, both are proving to be effective methods of delivering the flexibility and capacity needed to address the challenges facing today’s electric grid.
We thank Fast Company for recognizing CLP’s remarkable achievement, and we celebrate alongside our customer and partner. Much more to come.
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