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Why some of the biggest names in tech and auto are teaming up on virtual power plants

Some big names in smart homes, solar power, and electric vehicles launched a coalition yesterday to develop standards and policies for virtual power plants.

The effort was initially funded by Google Nest and General Motors and will be spearheaded by the clean energy advocacy nonprofit RMI. The new coalition is called the Virtual Power Plant Partnership, or VP3, and its founding members also include Ford, solar energy companies SunPower and Sunrun, as well as smart electrical panel maker SPAN and several other energy management companies.

Virtual power plants (VPPs) tap into the idea that electric vehicles and home solar systems can serve as backup power sources for the electricity grid. VPPs can also be made up of fleets of smart thermostats and other appliances that can adjust their power use to reduce stress on the grid.

It’s a valuable service that can help prevent outages during an energy crunch. And VPPs can encourage more renewable energy deployment by better managing the ebb and flow of solar and wind energy that fluctuates with the weather and time of day.

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