Virtualising homes – the new load management paradigm

Engerati investigates how distributed intelligence could open the way for demand management at the grid edge.
Published: Thu 09 Nov 2017

The so-called ‘duck curve’, reflecting the changing electricity demand patterns during the day – falling to a low around midday and then steepening as consumers get home in the evening – gained its name in California but is familiar in some form in most jurisdictions.

With the growth of home generation, batteries and additional loads such as electric vehicle charging, the curve threatens to become not only more variable but potentially more extreme. The challenge for utilities is managing that curve.

Demand management

The question is how? Demand management of industrial processes is relatively straightforward and widely implemented. But new technologies are opening the way to bring demand management into the home so that load can be managed there at the edge with distributed intelligence before it reaches the grid.

This is the new paradigm for utilities – but it requires some understanding of the ‘signals’ that consumers need to react, e.g. on price signals alone, and not least digital trust in their utilities to allow them the level of control of appliances and devices.

It also opens the way for peer-to-peer transactive opportunities with for example, resident A’s electric vehicle charging being supplied from resident B’s solar surplus.


Angie Klee, Innovations Manager at Itron Idea Labs, talks about the value of innovation and real world outputs from the Idea Labs.

San Diego pilot

In order to get some insight on these issues, Itron, building on its development of edge intelligence as well as the recent acquisition of demand response provider Comverge, is partnering in a 100 home energy management pilot in San Diego.

“With edge intelligence and analytics, the aim is to blend and orchestrate loads within the home in order to flatten the duck curve,” says George Simons, Director Software & Services at Itron.

At the heart of the pilot is new technology under development at Itron’s Idea Labs, which is currently undergoing early stage employee testing.

“We are working on a hardware device that fits between the solar panels and the other devices in the home,” says Angie Klee, Innovation Manager at the Ideas Lab.

“It provides insight into solar production as well as visibility and control into the home.”


Itron's Director of Software & Services,George Simons talks about distributed energy resource integration and their San Diego pilot.

Energy savings

But it’s not just about customer choice and convenience. Ultimately financial considerations come into play in an initiative of this nature and Simons says that a minimum 15-20% savings to customers is targeted in the pilot.

“It will be a combination of things that motivates customers and it could provide a new line of service for utilities.”

That of course will depend on the local regulatory restrictions and the fine line between issues such as energy management and flexibility procurement. In Europe for example, distribution operators will  not be permitted to own and operate storage as a source of flexibility. But will they be able to offer home energy management as a service?