Emerging energy storage technology can be crucial to utilities eager for new business models predicated on stronger ties with their customers, according to storage software entrepreneur Dan Loflin.
"There are opportunities to serve customers in ways they haven't yet," Loflin said in his recent keynote address at the Renewables Rush executive energy conference in San Francisco. Loflin is CEO of Geli, a Bay Area company providing software to link solar and microgrid systems.
Software can be used to link widely dispersed energy storage systems into virtual power plants, totally upending how electric utilities operate grids, making them much efficient and robust as renewables become more prevalent, the company said.
Innovations on this front are happening much more rapidly in places like Australia, which has more robust, competitive and deregulated electricity markets, than the United States, Loflin said. In the United States, he said, "market structures are the biggest impediments right now." he said.
Meanwhile, utilities are going to have to re-imagine themselves. "Their business models are going to have to evolve,"Loflin said.
"What I would like to see is utilities reaching out to behind-the-meter customers," he said, "and behind-the-meter customers being more engaged and collaborative with utilities."
Listen in to more of Loflin's views: