The other day, sitting around the dinner table, I tried to explain my new job to my nine-year-old son: “I’m working to help make a more efficient grid,” I said. He kinda got it, but it’s a work in progress– like our transforming power markets. That’s what’s exciting about AutoGrid – we are well positioned at the intersection of energy intelligence, distributed reach and software prowess to offer utilities a powerful, turnkey solution for helping to manage their load needs.
But when I said “virtual power plant,” I lost him in the conversation. What exactly are VPPs all about? Put simply, a VPP is an aggregated network of distributed energy resources (DERs) that can be remotely controlled and operated to balance the supply and demand of electricity on the grid. These DERs include everything from grid-scale solar and storage to home thermostats and EVs. Sounds simple, right?
A bit complex for a 9-year-old, but solving this need is critical as electricity supply and demand have become extremely complex and much harder to manage. Grid challenges include the introduction of variable wind and solar generation, extreme weather due to climate change, EV adoption, and the “electrification of everything.” The list goes on, and there’s so much to do.
A VPP combines devices that store, generate, and shift electricity to help meet peak demand, reducing the need for conventional power plants. And that means VPPs help keep heavily polluting peaker plants switched off and as a result, the grid emits less carbon. After talking about climate change his whole life, my son grocked it.
Leaving the (Google) Nest, with Lessons
My career reflects my quest to combine cutting-edge energy technology like AutoGrid Flex, rising market moments, and positive impact. After business school, I dove into the energy sector – way before it became “sexy” like it is today. I started out developing clean nuclear base load and then moved into alliances and channels for demand response.
I later moved into edge devices at Bloom Energy, where I focused on product marketing. Amazing technology and passionate people showed me how important it is to bring users along in our energy transformation, and how critical it is to help them understand the broader story of how each customer makes an impact.
From Bloom I jumped to Google focused on various partnership roles, but eventually landed back in energy with Google Nest, launching the Nest Renew service that has allowed for increasingly more participation in demand response programs through their smart thermostat. Google has the reach and platform to truly change individual behaviors and make our complicated energy story a bit easier to digest. I learned so much about conviction, leadership, and storytelling – all critical skills in achieving our goals of saving the planet!
New Business Models Are Beckoning
My experience at Google convinced me that big tech alone could not solve our energy sector and climate crisis issues. This challenge requires best-of-breed players like AutoGrid, visionary utilities and other energy stakeholders, as well as smart public-private partnerships.
When I look at our current moment, I see the Wild West – in the best sense. There’s so much space for creativity, cool deals, and new partnerships. No rules should go unquestioned, and opportunities for innovative new business models are everywhere.
I recently sat in my first customer meeting, giddy and excited– there’s so much opportunity to make such a difference.