OhmConnect’s Response to California Energy Grid Challenges

OhmConnect Instrumental In Stabilizing the Grid During Forced Black Outs

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Matt Duesterberg
September 16, 2020

OhmConnect played an important role in ensuring grid stability during the grid challenges from August 13th to 20th. Participation of hundreds of thousands of users led to 1 GWh of reductions across the time period. With a transparent process to provideResource Adequacy (RA) , OhmConnect could provide 5 GWhs by the summer of 2021. 


California experienced the first rolling blackouts since 2001. While a review is still being conducted, these blackouts occurred on August 14th and 15th during the afternoon when solar generation was decreasing and there was a large ramp up in overall net demand. In a letter to Governor Newsom, the regulatory bodies (CPUC and CEC) and market operator (CAISO) pointed towards a regional heat wave reducing imports and challenges with the current RA paradigm - notably that RA is “based on a 1-in-2 peak forecast, i.e., an average year forecast”. 

Role of Demand

The CAISO faced similar grid conditions for subsequent days, from August 16th - 20th, with net demand peaking on August 18th. However, rolling blackouts were avoided, in large part due to conservation measures on the demand side (e.g., OhmConnect, storage, XYZ), including California Flex Alerts, implementation of utility and third party demand response programs, and broad calls for conservation across the state (including the Governor’s office). 

OhmConnect Participation

OhmConnect was available and active every day between August 13th through 20th. Southern California users were dispatched the day head every day, and had 3+ hour events on consecutive days. Northern California users provided Real Time relief every day. Users provided consistent performance with limited fatigue. Moreover, users celebrated the ability to contribute to grid needs, feeling empowered to collectively create a difference in the difficult situation California faced.

  • Social media filled with positive anecdotes
  • User referrals hit record highs
  • Customer sentiment was positive 
  • Payments to customers were over $1m
  • Users asked for more events!

OhmConnect dispatched millions of user event hours with both day-ahead and day-of notifications, toggled 750k individual devices, and paid out over $1m to users. Our users made a big impact on the grid, providing nearly 1 GWh of reductions across the time period which is the equivalent of taking 625K homes offline for an hour. Despite the positives, OhmConnect experienced several learnings, including a limitation on number of hours users could be dispatched (4 hours max) and some challenges in lining up Resource Adequacy payouts to user events. 

Figure 1: Reductions of nearly 60k users on Friday, 8/14. The grey lines represent the CAISO requested flex alert time from 3-10pm and the red lines represent the OhmHour event from 5-8pm

To avoid future grid issues, California must invest in more flexible load. OhmConnect predicts that it could have hit 2 GWh of reductions with a clear and transparent process to participate in the RA market this year and can scale to 5 GWh by next year.

 *1 Kahn, Debra and Bermel, Colby. California has first rolling blackouts in 19 years — and everyone faces blame. 8/18/2020. Politico. 

*2 CEC, CAISO, CPUC. Joint Response to Governor Newsom. 8/19/2020.

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