Powering Strong Communities

Calif. CCA signs contract for aggregated residential demand response program

East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) in California has signed an agreement with OhmConnect that aims to lower electricity costs for its customers while reducing usage during critical peak hours.

EBCE’s goal in the deal is to incentivize its customers to shift their energy use away from peak evening hours when solar power fades.

The roughly 150,000 active consumers using OhmConnect’s app receive alerts when grid conditions warrant reductions in energy consumption. OhmConnect users that lower their usage compared with their historical usage earn credits, or points, that are redeemable through the company’s web site for prizes, purchases or cash. One point is worth about $0.01.

OhmConnect is “providing us a pretty traditional hedge,” but they are able to execute it through demand response rather than through a generating unit somewhere, Howard Chang, chief operating officer of EBCE, said.

Basically, OhmConnect is providing EBCE, which serves most of Alameda County, with a demand response program. “In essence, they are paying customers to reduce load,” Chang said.

EBCE’s contract calls for OhmConnect to hedge the community choice aggregator’s power needs for certain hours when electricity prices tend to be higher, specifically during evening ramp hours and in the summer. OhmConnect assumes the risk associated with the curtailment and with sourcing the energy supplies from the California Independent System Operator.

The contract calls for OhmConnect to cut EBCE’s demand by 25 megawatts (MW) in 2021. “It puts the performance risk on them,” Chang said. Though the current contract is short term, if it proves successful, “we would hope to continue it into the future,” Chang said.

“This deal demonstrates that the transition away from fossil fuels will not only enhance grid reliability but will also lower costs and empower consumers to drive the clean energy transition,” Nick Chaset, CEO of EBCE, said in a statement.

By aggregating its customers, San Francisco based OhmConnect hopes to create the largest virtual power plant in North America by aggregating and coordinating the curtailment activities of its customers. In one week of August 2020, OhmConnect said its “Resi-Station” technology reduced energy usage in California by almost one gigawatt hour.

EBCE operates a community choice energy program for more than 550,000 residential and commercial customers in Alameda County and 11 incorporated cities and expects to add 75,000 customers this year. EBCE began its service in June 2018 and plans to expand to the cities of Pleasanton, Newark, and Tracy in 2021.