REDWOOD CITY, Cali., Nov. 20, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- National Grid, one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the world, has won the inaugural Utility Industry Innovation in Gas Award from state utility regulators for a new program powered by AutoGrid’s software platform. The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) recognized National Grid for its forward-thinking gas demand response (DR) pilot program, which will provide financial incentives to participating businesses while helping the utility optimize the use of its existing natural gas infrastructure and potentially avoid the cost and environmental impact of capacity upgrades. The program uses AutoGrid Flex™ from flexibility management software leader AutoGrid to operate a natural gas demand response pilot program for commercial and industrial customers on Long Island and in parts of New York City.

“What this award says to us is that state utility regulators are leading and supporting innovative business models that develop new ways to manage a flexible and reliable energy system,” said Carlos Nouel, Vice President New Energy Solutions, National Grid. “We’re pleased to get this recognition because it validates that we’re going in the right direction—using new technology to deliver value and savings to our customers.”

When there’s a need to limit gas demand during peak winter energy use, the cloud-based AutoGrid Flex application sends automated signals through the internet to connect to direct load-control devices provided by IP Keys, another partner in the project. The signals switch enrolled customers’ furnaces, boilers and other natural gas-fired equipment on and off.

National Grid, which provides gas and electric service to more than seven million customers in the Northeast, will use AutoGrid Flex to schedule and conduct gas flexibility events between 6:00–9:00 a.m. throughout the winter heating season, which runs from December 1 through February 28. Sixteen National Grid commercial and industrial customers in the New York Metro area and on Long Island applied for the program, which will allow them to be innovative in shifting their businesses natural gas use.

The program borrows the software platform and the concept of flexibility management from the electric power sector and applies it to natural gas distribution. The goals are the same in either sector: lowering peak energy usage to avoid system congestion, minimizing the need for capacity upgrades to serve peak needs, supporting system reliability and rewarding customers for their voluntary cooperation.

Using AutoGrid’s flexibility management software, National Grid can transform existing gas-fueled machinery outfitted with electrical controllers into modern, two-way devices that can receive automated on-off signals as well as send data on status and use for monitoring, prediction, optimization and control from a single software platform.

“The flexibility management technology taps the latent flexibility in gas equipment,” said Amit Narayan, CEO of AutoGrid. “With this capability, National Grid can balance gas supply and demand more efficiently and effectively by turning gas-fired equipment into flexible resources that can be easily ramped up or down in real time and at scale.”

“The awards demonstrate how state-level regulation and policy can support technological and market innovation,” according to Brien J. Sheahan, Chair of the NARUC Presidential Task Force on Innovation. “As a regulatory community, NARUC is an ideal place to examine technology trends and regulatory innovation,” said Sheahan. “We hope these awards will promote the spread of knowledge and understanding of innovation in regulatory issues.”

The potential impact of this program has regional and international implications.

“By showing how energy service providers can add natural gas-powered distributed energy resources to their flexibility management strategies, National Grid and other AutoGrid clients are demonstrating how utilities of the future can create innovative business models that help them and their customers succeed in the new distributed energy world,” added Narayan.

About AutoGrid:

AutoGrid builds software applications that enable a smarter distributed energy world. The company’s suite of flexibility management applications allows utilities, electricity retailers, renewable energy project developers and energy service providers to deliver cheap, clean and reliable energy by managing networked distributed energy resources (DERs) in real time and at scale. AutoGrid applications are all built on the AutoGrid Energy Internet Platform™ (EIP™), with patented Predictive Controls™ technology that leverages petabytes of smart meter, sensor and third-party data, along with powerful data science and high-performance computing algorithms, to monitor, predict, optimize and control the operations of millions of assets connected across global energy networks.

AutoGrid has more than 2,500 megawatts of DERs under contract with more than 30 global energy companies around the world. Several of the world’s leading energy companies, such as National Grid, E.ON, Florida Power & Light, Southern California Edison, Eneco, Portland General Electric, CPS Energy, New Hampshire Electric Cooperative and NextEra Energy, are using AutoGrid’s software to improve their operations, integrate renewables and drive deeper engagement with their customers. AutoGrid has been recognized with several prestigious industry awards including the 2016 Energy Productivity Innovation Challenge (EPIC), Greentech Media’s Grid Edge Award 2016, Bloomberg New Energy Pioneer 2016, World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer 2015, Red Herring Top 100 North America 2017, 2017 Cleantech Global 100 and Industrial Innovation Company of the Year 2014 by the Cleantech Group.