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How Utility-Startup Mashups Are Bringing New Grid Tech to Market

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of hybrid utility-industry software platforms emerge to help manage distributed energy resources. They’ve started as in-house deployments and grown into commercial platforms for other utilities to use, via joint ventures or other arrangements. 

DVI, the AMI-enabled volt/VAR optimization platform owned by Virginia’s Dominion Resources, is a noteworthy example. So is Bit Stew, the startup that cut its teeth on an in-house smart meter rollout for BC Hydro, and was bought for $153 million by investor General Electric in 2016. Pxise, the real-time, closed-loop grid balancing technology owned by Sempra Energy and developed with OSIsoft, is an earlier-stage version of a similar concept. 

At this year’s Distributech conference, I spoke to two companies that are quietly working with utility partners on a similar path to market, and to solve similar challenges. But instead of managing electrons on the grid, they’re managing data through the utility planning process in a much richer, faster and more useful way than traditional methods allow. 

The trick is to marry all the data coming in from smart meters, grid sensors, DER interconnections, and other points of interest for utilities, with a cloud platform that grid planners can use to plot out hundreds of scenarios in hours or days, rather than a handful of scenarios in weeks or months. 

Putting these two technologies together could enable big changes for grid services in a distributed energy-rich environment -- for both utilities and regulators.

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