Six Takeaways from Distributech: From AI to Innovation

By Sadia Raveendran, Don McPhail, and Gisela Glandt on

This year the combined Uplight and AutoGrid team had a great time at Distributech in Orlando, Florida, presenting on VPPs, showcasing our solutions, talking with clients, and meeting each other for the first time. For those who didn’t attend, here are some of the key themes that we took away.

Software is eating the (Distributech) world

For an event that historically has been highly focused on physical assets like switch gear and field safety equipment, the biggest and busiest booths, and the overwhelming majority of the keynote speaker sessions, were all about software. Everything from operational systems (ADMS, OMS), to visualization (GIS, BI tools), to safety tools (AR, Automation), to tools that enable engagement and flexibility on customer assets (DERMS, HEMS). The disconnect seems to be that while there are billions of dollars flowing into Grid Modernization filings, utilities are still transitioning from procuring traditional “poles & wires” solutions and are not yet fully leveraging the full potential software tools – like VPPs – can bring to save customers big. We fully expect that to change, fast, and that’s why we’re excited about bringing Autogrid and Uplight together.

AI is new (and old)

While people’s perception of artificial intelligence (AI) is currently dominated by generative AI, we have been using AI and machine learning (ML) as part of Uplight’s Predictive Controls framework for over a decade now. For example, in 2013 we delivered 10 million individual day-ahead forecasts in less than 10 minutes. It is exciting to see how our deployments scale and where the value of these predictive analytics can be better realized.

Silos are out

In the people, process, and technology aspects of any significant transformation like the energy transformation and grid modernization, the changing mix of the attendees at DTech was front and center this year. There were more folks from the customer service and customer program side of the utility house in attendance, which underscores the point that there is no transformation without customer participation and engagement. This shift is also being mirrored in the organizational structure of some innovative utilities where both grid management and customer services fall under the same executive leader. We also saw that Planning, Customer/Programs and IT are finding that collaborating more closely around ROIs and prioritization to enable exponentiated impact.  

Raising the alarm of forecasted load growth

With electrification ramping up fast, utilities are looking for all possible ways to meet their growing demand, especially when the interconnection queue can’t move fast enough. They need creative approaches. Luckily the combined Uplight / AutoGrid team has an extensive network of partners that can help aggregate loads into a turnkey VPP to help solve this problem.

The power load flex trio: DR, DERMS, and VPPs

Fundamentally, there are three different ways of leveraging the value of flexibility…. at the system level under emergency grid conditions, at the network level through targeted dispatch and management of DERs, and on the supply side as an alternative to traditional peaker plants. The scaling of flexibility management is contingent on structures that enable the capture of all of these sources of value, which is more of a change management challenge than technology. At Uplight, we enable our customers to capture one or more of these sources of value – proving to be a reliable resource for capacity planning consideration. 

Innovation abounds

Meeting live with our network of ecosystem partners was an exciting reminder that this industry is continuously evolving, with new or expanding programs and offerings.  The collaboration possibilities seem infinite, especially amid the clean energy transition. 

This year is poised to be an exciting year for Uplight, and the themes at Distributech resonated with Uplight attendees. Reach out to hello@uplight.com if you want to chat more about AI, load flexibility, VPPs, and more. 

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