Battelle licenses smart grid technology developed at PNNL

By Annette Cary, Herald staff writerJanuary 30, 2013 

Battelle has licensed technology for managing power supply and demand on the electric grid to a Bellevue company, Calico Energy Services.

The technology, based on sophisticated mathematical algorithms, was developed at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, which Battelle manages. Any profits will be returned to the laboratory and its operation.

"PNNL's technology represents a major leap forward in our nation's ability to manage grid reliability, balance the ever-expanding complexities of our electricity distribution system, integrate renewables and engage consumers in energy savings programs," said PNNL engineer Rob Pratt, who led the team that developed the licensed technology, in a statement.

The technology allows the automatic, rather than manual, coordination of the flow of electricity at all levels -- from power generators down to home appliances, such as water heaters. It allows real-time communication of how much power is needed and how much the power would cost with the result of balancing power supply and demand.

The system manages peak demand on the electric grid, said Franny White, PNNL spokeswoman.

When power is in short supply because of high demand, electricity is sold at a premium price. That encourages power users to consume less and helps the electric grid avoid power shortages and outages, she said.

PNNL's technology was demonstrated about six years ago on the Olympic Peninsula with 112 homeowners who were given equipment that allowed them to receive constant price updates and to make choices that would have software automatically reduce their power use in peak periods when electricity is most expensive.

They used smart water heaters and electric dryers that responded to a signal and would intermittently turn their heating elements off for 20 seconds to two minutes during times of peak demand on the grid.

They saved about 10 percent on their monthly power bills and helped their utility reduce peak demand by 15 percent.

"PNNL's patent portfolio is a breakthrough that allows an electric power system to virtually balance itself," said Jesse Berst, chief analyst at, in a statement.

The technology will be commercialized as a module of Calico Energy Service's Energy Intelligence Suite for utility customers, said Mike Miller, president of the company. The suite serves as a unified operations center to integrate data, devices, software engines and applications to allow utilities to precisely control energy resources and grid assets, he said.

"We look forward to seeing utilities and consumers benefit from this technology," Pratt said.

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