Why your pool pump and solar hot water system could be market operator's best friend | RenewEconomy

Why your pool pump and solar hot water system could be market operator’s best friend

Virtual power plants will change the energy landscape – but they are not just about rooftop solar and battery storage.


Sandra Trittin is the founder and head of business development of Swiss-based Tiko, which developed one of the world’s first “virtual power plants”  using loads such as heating and hot water rather than batteries. It is now looking for opportunities in Australia.

Tiko’s approach is a ready answer to those who would claim that there is not enough “storage” and demand flexibility in Australia’s grid. It’s there, locked in the regular devices we use – air conditioners, heaters, water heaters, and pool pumps. It just needs to be harnessed.

And, of course, there is the extraordinary resource from Australia’s rooftop solar resources – at more than 7GW and rising quickly – and the expected sharp uptake in battery storage.

Ahead of her appearance at the upcoming All Energy conference in Melbourne, we talked with Trittin about Tiko’s plans for Australia.

Sandra, briefly tell us what Tiko is and wants to do.

Tiko is a technology platform which offers two major services in one. On one side it is providing a Virtual Power Plant for the energy industry, providing reliable and secure all kind of energy and grid services (e.g. wholesale arbitrage, local grid stabilization, frequency regulation) with any kind of connected electrical devices (e.g. water heater, aircon, batteries, charging stations, heat pumps, pool pumps, back up generators).

Tiko can combine the different capacity profiles of the connected devices for maximum flexibility without impacting the customers comfort. Integration into an existing portfolio of generation assets is possible as well.
 On the other side it is providing white label a compelling energy management system to the device owner, providing monitoring services of energy flows, remote and programmable load control as well as alarming services.
We normally work together with energy and network companies as well as device suppliers to create new and innovative business models based on this technology.
You established what I think is one of the first virtual power plants in Europe. But without batteries. How did you do it?
When we started our company in 2012 in Switzerland, there were almost no batteries around. Solar was picking up but battery usage was just starting. We decided that waiting for the new technology to come would take too long.
So we took the opportunity to connect already existing devices which have been already in homes and commercial buildings. This is the reason why we started our VPP technology with electric heating and cooling, water heaters etc.
On the commercial side integration with back-up generators etc. was already known, we used it to build an integrated portfolio and learn from different asset behaviors. We have been the first ones in Switzerland and later also in France providing fast frequency response only based on loads.
Today, it gives us the advantage that with our technology every home and commercial building owner can participate and maximum value creation for the society can be achieved.
Based on the experience it was more easy for us to integrate new assets like batteries, leading to applications in other european countries where our technology is used e.g. in Germany, for example with sonnen and utility EWE as well as in France with Direct Energie and in Austria.
How did that work out?
The first challenge that we had to manage was that fast frequency response needs to be provided symmetrically within seconds for positive and negative capacity. Where as shutting down a device is quite easy the challenge was on how to provide the opposite side of the delivery.
We successfully managed which this is one of the key differentiators of our algorithms of the Virtual Power Plant. The second challenge was how to control loads in a home without impacting the users comfort or usage.
It took us some time to figure out and our first 200 friendly customers had to deal with some impact from time to time. But this gave us the possibility to improve and learn and make the platform the trustful technology it is today.
How many connections do you now have in Europe?

Today we have more than 100 MW integrated and within the next year the number of connections should rise up to 50’000 devices. The main countries of operations are Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria.

Each of the countries has different requirements for energy and grid services and with each of our partners we have built up a different and innovative business model.

What opportunities do you see in Australia?

In Australia there is a huge number of existing decentralized assets like aircons, water heater, pool pumps etc. and at the same time new assets like solar, batteries and charging stations are picking up.

To manage the energy turnaround successfully it is not only about distributing new decentralized energy resources but also how to integrate them into the existing energy system successfully and efficiently. We see a huge opportunity for cloud-based platforms which are able to connect any kind of device, independent of the device supplier, and on the other side integrate successfully into existing energy systems.

And what will VPPs look like in the future. Do you see a time when distributed energy accounts for half of all demand/supply, as many predict?


For the adoption and integration of VPPs in the future, there are two challenges to be managed.

The first one is on the side of the VPP services, VPPs have be able to perform services as conventional power stations, switching easily from one to the other and being efficiently integrated into existing portfolios.

The second challenge is on the adoption rate of device owners. Where it is getting more and more common with commercial and industrial companies to join for example DR programs, on the residential side new business models have to be implemented to make VPPs attractive and economical efficient.

It is possible but it requires existing players in the energy market to think in new ways. It opens for them new opportunities to create revenue and differentiate on the market. If these two challenges are managed VPPs will play and important role in the demand/supply equation of the industry.

Sandra Trittin will be speaking at the All Energy conference on October 3 in a special session on virtual power plants.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Get up to 3 quotes from pre-vetted solar (and battery) installers.