Blue Pillar Looks to Make a Splash in Behind-the-Meter Control Work

Jun 3 2016

Blue Pillar thinks it can help utilities fight grid defection in their commercial and industrial customer ranks.

Mar 24 2016 Between 2010-2015, distributed generation assets (solar, wind, microturbines, fuel cells and conventional natural gas-fired CHP) in the C&I segment grew 400%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. With this growth, more sophisticated demand response, which includes distributed energy resources management, represents an emerging opportunity for utilities to deliver these new types of services to the C&I market. That is, if utilities can communicate effectively with equipment behind the customer’s meter — viewing customer systems almost as an extension to the utility’s SCADA network.
Blue Pillar has recently expanded its internet of things (IoT) platform, Aurora, long used by C&I customers for internal management of facilities and DER. Now Aurora enables behind-the-meter visibility and control for utilities — and NRG is one of the first utilities to offer services to customers using this platform.
The latest release of Aurora unites everything that measures, generates, consumes switches or stores energy, with complete connectivity and control.
It also provide interfaces to applications used by asset owners and utilities. This used to require customized SCADA development; but Blue Pillar’s takes a centralized approach to connecting to customer assets and gathering distributed generation data. Data is aggregated into a cloud-based service (public or private), which enhances efficiency of data management and storage, as well as support for multiple time zones. This provides the scalability which may be valuable to utilities managing demand response programs across several states.
“We’ve been selling this platform to facilities for several years, so we recognize that facility owners command a significant amount capacity. If utilities can leverage that on the owners’ behalf, then facility owners could leverage their capacity in the marketplace to make money via market-based demand response programs,” said Tom Willie, CEO of Blue Pillar.
About six years ago, Blue Pillar began exploring the revenue-creation side of the DR business by working with well-known DR providers, essentially conducting their signals and executing DR on their behalf.
“Last year, we figured out how to put that in the hands of the revenue-focused side of utility, and allow them to offer it as way to differentiate their commodity electricity sales,” said Willie. “If we could offer our platform to the revenue side of utilities to connect to customer assets on customer premises — whether those assets are owned by the customer, utility or a third party — that would accelerate the number facilities our technology ultimately gets deployed to.”
According to Willie, a DER management platform offers advantages over a traditional building automation system. “Every traditional BAS is entirely focused on HVAC and lighting. They focus on the load side of facility, the things that consume energy,” he said. “Generating and switching energy behind the meter is the new paradigm. You can really look at our system as almost a BAS equivalent for the generation side of facility. But we also interface with existing BAS’s.”
“The more of these assets that are operating behind meter, the more the regulated meter will have to play a role in getting information that can support grid management,” said Willie.

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