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Peak Power turns buildings into virtual power plants

Peak Power, a Toronto-based climate tech company, is pioneering decarbonization software that tra...

Peak Power

Canadian energy optimization and decarbonization software provider Peak Power received $5 million from SDTC to support its growth across North America. (Courtesy Peak Power)

Peak Power, a Toronto-based cleantech company, is pioneering decarbonization software that transforms buildings into ‘virtual power plants’ by managing electricity during times of peak electricity use.

The company offers an AI-powered software solution called Peak Synergy. It transforms energy assets such as an electric vehicle (EV) and battery storage in commercial or industrial buildings into decentralized energy sources during peak hours.

“We’re enabling batteries, buildings and electric vehicles to become grid resources,” said Imran Noorani, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Peak Power in an interview with SustainableBiz.

Noorani said unlike other decarbonization software, Peak Synergy can optimize for EVs, buildings and batteries to respond to grid strain and carbon intensity.

Peak Power was founded in 2015 and has operations in Ontario and in California, New York and Massachusetts. It has 55 employees.

The company has customers in the REIT field like Colliers and Dream. Its investors include real estate player Osmington, insurer Desjardins, MaRS IAF and The Atmospheric Fund. Partners include Hydro One and the Independent Electricity System Operator.

Features of Peak Synergy

Peak Synergy coordinates energy in a building from batteries, grid interactive buildings and EVs to operate as a virtual power plant.

A virtual power plant aggregates assets outside of a centralized power plant to provide electricity and sell the energy back to the market.

Peak Power chose to work with buildings because of their ubiquity. Noorani evoked climate-related natural disasters in Texas and California that put pressure on the electric grid. “You can almost imagine if the grid goes down, there’s nothing that helps in between. Well, you can use buildings as a toolkit . . . the nice things about buildings is that they’re typically in the high-congestion areas, so they can provide a lot of relief to the grid when it’s too strained.”

Peak Synergy enables a building to respond to strain on the electricity grid due to high demand. In Ontario, the grid taps into fossil fuels, but Peak Synergy will instead signals buildings to reduce their consumption or draw from batteries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money on energy costs for the building owner.

The software takes seven billion inputs a day like grid load, the weather, building load as well as the state of charge of the battery and optimizes for the different “languages” of each input.

Noorani highlighted its capabilities with EVs. When an EV with a bi-directional battery like a Nissan Leaf is charging, it can transfer battery power back to the system.

It is the culmination of years of work. Peak Power found each EV in a grid service can produce $8,000 worth of revenue a year. In 2017, the company installed bi-directional chargers in Toronto that could draw energy from an EV and into the grid. It demonstrated in 2021 it could create a virtual power plant using four batteries, eight buildings and 12 EVs to address grid need over four hours.

Peak Synergy can reduce about 60 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per year, according to Noorani. He forecasts by 2023, it will be avoiding over 3,000 tCO2e a year and by 2027 in the 50,000 tCOe2 range.

Spreading across North America with SDTC funding

Peak Power received $5 million in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) in September to support the growth of its software. Noorani said the money will go to hiring more staff to expand into the U.S. and bridge the development work.

Noorani said the SDTC is part of a Canadian innovation ecosystem that supports companies like Peak Power and fosters their growth “organically.”

“One of the things we don’t have going in Canada is that we have a small market. And if you want to get across the border into the bigger market such as North America or the U.S., you really need a little bit of innovation funding and a little bit of support.”

The relationship began in 2018 when the SDTC provided Peak Power with $1.8 million to build Peak Synergy. When Peak Power built, commercialized and sold Peak Synergy in the U.S., Noorani said it proved the company could successfully patent their solution in a growing global green market.

Peak Power chose the three U.S. states because of their advanced knowledge on the value of virtual power plants and distributed energy resource aggregation, according to Noorani. He also pointed to two major developments in the U.S. energy industry that accelerated its interest.

First, was Order 2222 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2020. It mandated every U.S. state to allow for distributed energy resources to participate in energy markets. California, New York and Massachusetts were some of the first to adopt the order. It aligned perfectly with Peak Power’s business.

Second, the Inflation Reduction Act injected billions of dollars in investment tax credits on storage and renewable assets with a 30 per cent tax subsidy for those projects.

“FERC Order 2222 created the infrastructure for the grid to be able to support this, and the investment tax credit created the financial support to be able to push this in a more meaningful way. We’ve got two perfectly timed things that are also really well-timed with our U.S. expansion and SDTC,” Noorani said.

Peak Power will plan to develop its software to be compatible with residential homes eventually, but Noorani said residential home are too small currently. It will continue to aggregate smaller assets as part of its progress.

Correction: SustainableBiz gave the wrong name to Peak Power’s software and made mistakes with its depiction. We regret the errors.

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