Enabling a resilient, customer-centred power system

By Guste Mar 16, 2021

By Sam Wevers – Senior Product Manager at Moixa

With the recent freeze in Texas and the consequent rolling blackouts, we have been reminded of multiple things at once. Extreme weather events have extreme consequences, and as we know from the science1, such events will happen more frequently as our climate changes. But whilst some may argue that the energy transition raises the risk of blackouts, Moixa firmly believes that a lower carbon and more distributed power system can in fact be even more resilient than the status quo. With software like Moixa’s GridShare platform, smart residential energy storage (both mobile and stationary) can not only reduce consumers’ bills, but can provide backup power during outages and deliver critical grid services to keep the lights on in the first place. 

In Japan, where over 25,000 residential batteries are connected to our GridShare platform, we have been providing this resilience across everything from blizzards to typhoons. Owners of ITOCHU’s Smart Star L battery are able to choose whether they want an automated backup service in case of a severe weather event. Moixa has integrated with local weather alerts from the Japanese Meteorological Agency, which we monitor 24/7. When a severe weather alert is triggered for a particular location, our GridShare platform automatically charges up batteries that have the setting enabled so that customers are prepared for any possible power outage. In markets where charging batteries from the grid isn’t allowed, GridShare will push solar generation directly into a battery in backup mode to fill it as fast as possible. We hold the battery at full charge as long as the weather alerts continue, then release the battery back to its AI-driven optimisation mode after the storm has passed. 

For Mr Sakamoto*, who lives in Nagasaki prefecture, GridShare’s weather backup service provided him with critical electricity during Typhoon Haishen last year. Situated in the warmer southwest of Japan, Nagasaki is prone to typhoons sweeping north from the tropics. These typhoons can cause significant power interruptions: Mr Sakamoto has had a power outage every year of the last three, one of which lasted for two full days. 

When last year’s typhoon hit, Mr Sakamoto’s entire neighbourhood suffered a blackout but his lights stayed on. A local sushi restaurant, concerned about their fish going bad in the fridge, was so intrigued that they popped over to ask how he still had power. GridShare had seen a severe weather alert for Mr Sakamoto’s area and automatically charged his battery to full. When the power went out at 4am, his Smart Star L battery kicked in and provided power to Mr Sakamoto’s appliances, enabling him to carry on his life as usual. Further, his solar panels could continue to charge his battery during the power outage, giving him ongoing resilience. In the graph below, you can see GridShare charging Mr Sakamoto’s battery due to an alert, and then see how his battery powered his household when the blackout hit. When the blackout was resolved, his battery immediately charged to full again in order to cover any further grid outages. 

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Figure 1: GridShare triggering weather alert charge function and battery providing backup during outage 

GridShare delivers this weather backup service across the seasons, too. Japan’s recent  cold snap drove power demand through the roof at the same time supplies of gas were looking tenuous (very similar to what happened in Texas). Prices on the JEPX power exchange climbed to stratospheric heights (see below), and severe weather alerts were issued. Because of these alerts, many batteries controlled by GridShare were put into backup mode in case the metres of snowfall took down power lines (thankfully, this didn’t happen). 

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Figure 2: Japanese power prices in January 2021 (Bloomberg, JEPX). 

Ultimately, though, having a battery or EV under GridShare control doesn’t just give consumers resilience against power outages. As grids decarbonise to counter our climate crisis, increasing levels of intermittent renewable generation will mean we need flexible demand and generation to keep things balanced. In the past, we could only tweak (dirty) power supply to balance the system during the Bake-Off ad break. But with intelligent digital control of power demand, we have a whole new tool kit at our disposal. It will be customers helping to keep the lights on, with the demand of millions of smart devices being flexed up and down in a new, green, digital power system. At Moixa, we believe that platforms like GridShare will be key to decarbonising our power system whilst empowering customers. We’re looking forward to the journey.

1IPCC, Impacts of 1.5ºC global warming on natural and human systems; IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate p. 596.
* Not his real name