Powering Strong Communities

California Community Choice Aggregator Unveils Virtual Power Plant Program

California community choice aggregator (CCA) Marin Clean Energy (MCE) on June 21 unveiled a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) program that is slated to launch in 2025.

MCE said the program will provide bill savings and increase local grid reliability, safety, and efficiency for low-income residents as part of Richmond, Calif.’s Advanced Energy Community project, which includes $3 million in funding from the California Energy Commission and will rehabilitate abandoned homes with energy efficiency retrofits and establish a VPP.

The Advanced Energy Community brings together a variety of partners including the project developer, ZNE Alliance, and ALCO Building Solutions, Ecoshift Consulting, Energy Solutions, mPrest, Richmond Community Foundation, THG Energy Solutions, TRC, and ZGlobal.

Similar to traditional power plants, VPPs provide electricity to the grid, but instead of coming from a single source, VPPs are made up of a network of digitally-connected technologies distributed across a community. VPPs help stabilize the power grid by quickly dispatching power to and from resources on the grid to shift energy consumption out of peak hours and take greater advantage of midday solar generation.

MCE’s VPP will include energy storage, smart thermostats, rooftop solar, heat pump space and water heating, and EV charging.

The VPP will initially be connected to up to 100 Zero Net Carbon Homes (ZNC Homes) and larger commercial and industrial sites. The ZNC Homes program will finance the acquisition, complete rehabilitation, and re-sale of homes as affordable properties. These ZNC homes will be built to be energy efficient and resilient, and each home will have a full complement of smart appliances and cost-saving equipment, including rooftop solar, battery energy storage, and heat pumps.

Local businesses will also have an opportunity to install batteries that provide resilience to grid outages, bill savings, and revenue generation potential, MCE said.

MCE will use the VPP in the statewide power markets – managed by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) – to demonstrate the aggregation of customer resources by a CCA, and the integration, scheduling, and settlement of these resources in the CAISO markets.

Participating residents “will be paid for their role in providing localized grid services through a dynamic value-sharing agreement,” MCE said.

MCE is a load-serving entity supporting a 1,200 megawatts peak load. MCE provides electricity service and programs to more than 540,000 customer accounts and more than one million residents and businesses in 37 member communities across four Bay Area counties: Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, and Solano.

The American Public Power Association has initiated a new category of membership for community choice aggregation programs.