Renew Home launches virtual power plant solution

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From pv magazine USA

A new virtual power plant (VPP) solution has launched through the partnership of Google Nest Renew and OhmConnect. The new company, Renew Home, has a goal of expanding from 3 GW of electrical energy use to 50 GW by 2030.

VPPs are aggregations of distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar, batteries, electric vehicles, and smart appliances. The energy stored or managed by these resources can help balance electricity supply and demand, and can provide grid services such as that provided by fossil-fuel power plants.

Source: DOE

In “Pathways to commercial liftoff: Virtual power plants,” the US Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that if the current scale of VPPs were tripled, it could address as much as 20% of the growing peak demand. The DOE forecasts that coincident peak demand on the grid will rise from about 740 GW to 800 GW by 2030. With retiring fossil-fuel plants, the new demand must be met by new resources, such as clean energy VPPs.

OhmConnect is a service designed to provide alerts about energy use, and it can even automatically power down devices at certain times of day to reduce use and save money on electric bills. Google Nest is a line of smart home products, such as smart thermostats, routers, doorbells, security systems, and more. Together they have formed Renew Home, a Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners (SIP) company. SIP was formed out of Alphabet with anchor partners that include the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

With a $100 million investment from majority owner SIP, Renew Home intends to enable US homes to work together to reduce and shift their energy use.

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“The marriage of Nest’s innovative approach to managing energy use in the home with OhmConnect’s customer-focused grid services platform will be transformational,” said Renew Home CEO Ben Brown. “With our industry-leading partners, Renew Home will be able to coordinate the home energy use of millions of customers to help catapult us into a 100% clean energy future.”

Brown was previously with Google, where he led many Google Home and Nest consumer products and services. Prior to Google he developed climate and energy tools for the United Nations, the DOE, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Renew Home works with the Google Home APIs as a platform provider of integrations to control devices and energy use. The company says it also integrates with dozens of additional devices and appliances in the home, including LG, Honeywell, SunPower, Sense, and others, and reports that it will support demand response and VPP programs with more than 100 utilities.

“This is a pivotal moment for virtual power plants,” said Alan Machuga, CTO of Rheem. “We are excited to partner with Renew Home to help customers save money and energy – while supporting the grid. As a leading manufacturer of HVAC and Water Heating products, Rheem uniquely brings both potential for energy savings and energy storage, to which water heaters play a critical role.”

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