Valley Clean Energy launches an innovative program for agricultural customers to reduce grid stress and save farmers money.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a $3.25 million, 5-megawatt pilot program that simplifies energy pricing for agricultural customers and provides lucrative automation incentives to adjust schedules to match grid conditions.
(From press release) Valley Clean Energy (VCE) is excited to announce that the California Public Utilities Commission has approved a $3.25 million pilot program to deploy automation systems, mainly for irrigation, that are responsive to the power grid at subsidized or no cost to farmers.
Partnering with TeMix and Polaris Energy Services, VCE will implement the 5-megawatt program starting in the summer of 2022. TeMix invented the technology that creates and transmits dynamic electricity rates that are sensitive to grid conditions, and Polaris is the leader in agricultural demand flexibility.
Building on state-funded research and development by TeMix and Polaris, the Agricultural Flexible Irrigation Technology (AgFIT) pilot program will provide VCE agricultural customers with automation systems and software to easily purchase energy at the lowest prices possible while meeting their crop and operational requirements.
The pilot tariff gives price signals through the simplified rates to incentivize farmers to shift their electricity use. Electricity is not just cheaper when renewables are plentiful; shifting the electricity load off expensive peak times reduces carbon emissions because renewables can be relied upon more heavily, rather than using more carbon-intensive electricity due to higher demand.
As seen in the previous pilot by Polaris and TeMix, growers in the program enjoy a bill savings of 10–15% for shifting energy consumption from the hours when the grid is under the greatest stress to hours when renewable electricity is plentiful. Additionally, incentives for the automation systems of their choice save approximately 30% on labor costs while improving crop quality.
Commissioners expressed excitement about this innovative pilot that adopts the CPUC’s vision for a simplified approach to demand flexibility, removing barriers and inefficiencies that characterize the traditional market-integrated demand response programs.
Commissioner Darcie Houck was enthusiastic about the program: “I'm pleased to see this kind of innovation and creative approach to flexible load management. This pilot incorporates concepts from the DER (distributed energy resources) and demand flexibility roadmap, emphasizing the importance of automation and the use of dynamic energy costs based on the California ISO wholesale market prices. I'm looking forward to seeing the findings of the pilot project."
Mitch Sears, interim general manager of VCE, said, “We appreciate the commission’s support for this program as we look to increase reliability, reduce costs and decarbonize the grid. Community choice aggregation programs (CCAs) have an important role to play in helping to increase grid reliability while enabling greater control over energy costs for our customers.”
David Meyers, Polaris’ CEO, said, “We are excited to build on our California Energy Commission-funded research and deploy a program that is lucrative and easy for agricultural customers to take advantage of, while helping to meet California’s decarbonization goals. We appreciate VCE’s leadership in adopting an innovative approach that our research shows can shift a significant portion of water pumping load out of the most critical hours for the grid.”
Edward Cazalet, TeMix’s CEO, added, “We look forward to demonstrating this dynamic approach to managing electricity transactions between agricultural customers, VCE, PG&E (the distribution grid operator), and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). Antiquated models based on static tariffs and programs that try to fit the square demand-side ‘peg’ into the round supply-side ‘hole’ simply won’t work for the wide variety of agricultural electricity uses and the highly variable supply of electricity as California increases our use of solar, wind and battery storage.”
About VCE: Valley Clean Energy is a not-for-profit public agency formed to provide electrical generation service to customers in Woodland, Winters, Davis and the unincorporated areas of Yolo County. VCE’s mission is to source cost-competitive clean electricity while providing product choice, price stability, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emission reductions and reinvestment in the communities it serves.
About TeMix: TeMix is the leading transactive energy services provider to utilities, electricity customers and suppliers. TeMix’s mission is to provide simple and powerful transaction systems to support a sustainable grid that is efficient, economic, fair and clean.
About Polaris: Polaris is the leader in connecting agricultural customers with energy market incentives and revenue that automates irrigation control and provides operational savings and visibility. The company manages a network of 500-plus irrigation and water conveyance pumps connected in the field to Polaris pump automation controllers and third-party systems, representing 75 MW of peak load that can be shifted when the grid is stressed.