Unlocking the value of DERs
February 2, 2023
Jeffery Mayger

Guest Contributor:
Thomas Lee

​This post is courtesy of Thomas Lee, Co-founder and CSO of Derapi, helping DER service providers and device manufacturers with DER connectivity. Here Thomas writes about the role he sees software and digital technologies playing in connecting and integrating DERs to accelerate electrification and decarbonization.

Coordinating distributed energy resources unlocks electrification and decarbonization

The low-carbon transition is one of the most pressing challenges we face in the 21st century. With climate change threatening to erode critical environmental resources and economic growth, we need to produce and consume our energy in ways that are sustainable and resilient. In addition to supporting renewable sources of energy, the industry can accelerate this transition by making it easier for consumers to adopt smart, connected distributed energy resources (DERs) that can be coordinated to optimize electricity consumption based on cost, carbon emissions, and grid capacity.

Recent Federal legislation along with changes in state and local policies is expected to drive substantial new growth in rooftop solar, battery storage, electric vehicles, heat pumps, and other major electrical devices. Growing interest in these technologies, driven by the imperative to reduce carbon emissions to meet climate targets, raises concerns that demand for electricity will outpace the ability of our power system to generate and deliver sufficient energy to serve future loads. However, with the use of software and digital technologies, these devices can be integrated into our existing electricity network efficiently and affordably.

Software combined with smart, connected devices can accelerate electrification and reduce costs

Today’s grid is designed to handle peak demand from uncontrolled devices, similar to the way our highways are designed to accommodate rush hour traffic. However, modern DER devices are increasingly software-driven, internet-accessible and designed to be controlled remotely. This capability means that the grid no longer needs to accommodate the possibility that all devices could draw their maximum power simultaneously. By using software to coordinate the timing and level of energy consumption among devices, it is possible to ensure the devices can be used as needed while staying within the limits of available infrastructure. In addition to enabling faster adoption of these devices, software coordination of DER devices also has the benefit of shifting loads and flattening peaks, increasing utilization of existing infrastructure, and delaying or avoiding costs for upgrading infrastructure.

This coordination requires robust and reliable interoperability between devices. These interactions are complex because they often rely on communication that occurs over multiple protocols and device types. In most cases, communication occurs via proprietary protocols or application programming interfaces (APIs) that differ from one manufacturer to the next, and from one device type to another. This requires DER software developers to spend considerable time and effort integrating with the myriad of device types and manufacturers. Although there are ongoing efforts to develop standards to address this, progress and adoption have been slow, and those standards that do exist are typically confined to a particular device type, either due to feature limitations or industry adoption. Furthermore, standards often have variations in implementation between manufacturers, rendering them incapable of full interoperability.

The industry can accelerate the uptake of DERs by making interaction amongst DERs easier, faster, and more secure.

The industry can accelerate electrification and decarbonization by making interaction amongst DERs easier, faster, and more secure. Derapi was founded to address precisely this issue. We are building a vendor-agnostic API platform for DER device data and control. Derapi takes care of the initial integration with each vendor, as well as ongoing maintenance. The software developer is provided a secure, harmonized interface through which they can access devices from any supported vendor. Derapi also addresses data privacy concerns by providing a simple, standardized process for device owners to authenticate their identity and give permission for Derapi and the DER service provider to access their devices and data.

By offering these device integrations as a service, Derapi enables DER software developers to more quickly deliver value-added services, such as smart electric vehicle charging, energy and carbon optimization, load shifting, and demand response. DER device manufacturers can also more quickly develop innovative products and features, knowing that their customers will easily be able to adopt them.

Removing the barriers to integration and coordination of all types of distributed energy resources (DERs), frees the industry to focus on developing comprehensive, compelling solutions that excite their customers and accelerate our transition towards a decarbonized future. At Derapi, we’re excited to be part of this journey!