What the Schneider/Autogrid Deal Signals about the Future of Microgrids

Schneider Electric’s recent decision to take a stake in Autogrid hints at the future relationship between utilities and microgrids as data exchange grows in sophistication.

Schneider Electric’s Mark Feasel was on stage at Microgrid 2019 in May.

A global energy leader in energy management and automation, Schneider is a strong player in both microgrids and the utility market. Autogrid, a California energy software company, has been honing data-gathering from utilities since the Obama-era explosion of smart grid technology.

The two companies also have been working together about that long. But Schneider decided to formalize the partnership last month as it became increasingly clear how matched their efforts are — and where the industry is heading, according to Mark Feasel, vice president of smart grid, Schneider Electric.

On the utility side of the market, Schneider offers control center level tools, such as an advanced distribution management system. On the customer side, the company provides microgrids and distributed energy.

Between those two sides — utility and customer — the flow of data is growing, and that’s what Autogrid collects and analyzes.

More complex microgrids

“Of course, one of the reasons utilities are making all this data, or want all this data, is because the edge of their grid is getting more complex, and they’ve got to figure out how to operate in a smarter fashion,” Feasel said in an interview with Microgrid Knowledge.

What specifically do Autogrid’s products bring to Schneider’s microgrid play?

Microgrids are increasingly used not just for reliability, but to help customers achieve various energy goals, such as sustainability or cost reductions.

To achieve these goals, advanced microgrids interface with the utility as it configures the best mix of resources — utility and microgrid — based on pricing , weather, available resources and other factors at any given time.

Today’s signaling is relatively simple, along the lines of what’s on and what’s off. But Feasel sees the communication becoming increasingly sophisticated in the future, more subtle “gradients of what’s working, when it’s working.”

Such signals require “a much more comprehensive connection to the utilities, and the markets, and we see Autogrid being a real key part of that,” Feasel said.

The Autogrid platform creates new kinds of signals for customers, he said. Schneider intends to augment its microgrids “to interface with those signals at a very deep level.”

About Schneider Electric

At Schneider, we believe access to energy and digital is a basic human right. We empower all to do more with less, ensuring Life Is On everywhere, for everyone, at every moment. We provide energy and automation digital solutions for efficiency and sustainability. We combine world-leading energy technologies, real-time automation, software and services into integrated solutions for Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries. We are committed to unleash the infinite possibilities of an open, global, innovative community that is passionate with our Meaningful Purpose, Inclusive and Empowered values.

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