How do technology companies scale smart-grid technologies? 

At some point along the path to scaled commercialization, testing technologies in a real-world-like setting becomes a necessity, which is often enabled through a utility pilot. Any company that has participated in utility pilots, however, knows that they are often time and resource intensive, complex in the funding source that supports it, and ambiguous as to how to achieve scale beyond the pilot. 

New York State’s Future Grid Challenge aims to change this market inefficiency. 

Administered through a competitive bid process run by NYSERDA, the Future Grid Challenge is a $15 million program that offers funding to grid technology companies and research institutions that address challenges ranging from the need for greater real-time system data to incorporating smart technologies and energy storage into power grid planning and operations. Modernizing the grid supports Governor Cuomo’s mandate for an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 under his Green New Deal.

The Future Grid Challenge streamlines the smart-grid technology scale-up process through three mechanisms: 

1. The Future Grid Challenge provides real dollars to enable pilot testing. In total, the State is making $15 million of funding available for the first wave of utility pilots. Each smart-grid challenge area is allocated $3 million of the total, allowing each one to pursue very meaningful pilots.

Launched in July, the initial solicitations for the Future Grid Challenge are in partnership with Con Edison and Orange & Rockland with applications due by October 9th.

2. The Future Grid Challenge brings a level of consistency to how pilots are evaluated and run across utilities. First, utilities provide their most urgent grid-modernization needs to NYSERDA, which is then solicited by NYSERDA through a competitive bid process.  All submissions are reviewed by a scoring committee comprised of the host utility and NYSERDA staff and experts, as well as implemented and overseen by both the host utility and NYSERDA. By ensuring consistency across all aspects of the pilot process, all of the State’s utilities benefit from the knowledge gained from any pilot, leading to cross pollination of experience and faster scaling of the successful technologies.

“The Future Grid Challenge is an opportunity for us to find additional technologies that can make it easier for our customers to get the benefits of clean, renewable energy,” said Matthew Ketschke, Con Edison’s senior vice president, Customer Energy Solutions. “Our customers are making it clear with their embrace of solar, CHP, fuel cells and other distributed energy resources that they want the clean energy future we are helping to build.”

3. The Future Challenge provides a closer tie-in with the Public Service Commission’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) from the start, paving the way for a more streamlined path towards commercialization and scale-up. By maintaining a pulse on these pilot projects at the State level, one of the goals of the Future Grid Challenge is to provide the State with a head start on thinking about what new business models or funding mechanism may make sense to support the eventual scaled deployment of these technologies. Furthermore, since the utilities themselves are requesting the specific technology types to pilot test, a successful pilot leads directly to addressing the scaled deployment need.  

NYSERDA’s Dave Crudele, Program Manager for Smart Grid Innovation, said, “By making technology vetting standards consistent and meeting the needs of the entire grid, we are catalyzing the development of the most advanced energy system in the nation.”

New York State’s REV continues to lead the nation in transforming and modernizing the generation, transmission and distribution electric system, and with NYSERDA’s $15 million Future Grid Challenge, the pace is about to accelerate further.