TEPRI Partners with South Union CDC to Pilot Virtual Power Plant Technology in Sunnyside Community

(AUSTIN, Texas – August 25, 2023) – The Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute (TEPRI) is receiving an Innovating Equitable Outcomes Grant from Energy Foundation to pilot solar, battery storage, and Virtual Power Plant (VPP) technology in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Houston, TX. Partnering with South Union Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit, BIPOC-led community-based organization serving the Sunnyside community, TEPRI aims to develop scalable pathways for residents who contend with low incomes to access more affordable, reliable, and clean energy through the use of VPP technology. 

While VPPs are just beginning to be deployed in Texas, Margo Weisz, TEPRI’s Executive Director shared some thoughts on the potential they hold, “Our strong belief is that VPPs can be a critical part of a clean energy transition, especially in deregulated energy markets. VPPs have the potential to expand the generation and consumption of clean energy, reduce energy bills, stabilize the grid, and provide a reliable energy source to residents during an outage. Having an inclusive model for serving residents with low-and moderate will be the lynchpin to scale.”   

TEPRI and South Union CDC will utilize the grant funding from Energy Foundation to identify multi-family and community-use buildings in the Sunnyside area and surrounding neighborhoods where we can deploy VPP technology. TEPRI may also explore the possibility of integrating small-scale wind generation to expand clean energy generation and resilience when the sun is not shining. Project analysis will include evaluating the impact of the technology on energy bills before and after the installation, surveying residents to document their understanding and experience with the technology, measuring the success of the technology in providing reliable energy during power outages, and evaluating the experience of the VPP company who operates the technology to understand how and if their experience might be different than other market segments. TEPRI will build case studies based on the quantitative and qualitative information and disseminate to communities and companies.

The objectives outlined for this project are in lock-step with the Justice40 initiatives of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and TEPRI will be using this project to seek further funding opportunities to expand applications for VPP use throughout Texas. 

Founded in 2015, TEPRI is a nonprofit organization that advances lasting energy solutions for low-income communities. Partnering with stakeholders from the energy sector and community-based organizations TEPRI conducts research, creates tools for practitioners and stakeholders, and demonstrates new models that can scale for widespread impact. As the energy systems in Texas evolve, TEPRI endeavors to shape the way households participate in and benefit from the transition to cleaner energy. 

Samantha Robledo, Programs Director, samantha@tepri.org