Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
Energy and Environment Directorate
Page 511 of 1046

Research Highlights

Highlights Archive

PNNL smart grid management technology licensed to Calico

February 2013

Technology balances power supply and demand at lowest possible cost


power lines
PNNL’s energy management technology for smart grid operations has been licensed to Calico Energy Services of Bellevue, Wash. Researchers continue to explore how changes in the way the nation's electrical grid is operated can improve its reliability, lower costs and lessen environmental impacts. The focus is on developing real-time tools and supporting their integration into operating systems.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's technology behind a market-based approach to managing power supply and demand on the electric grid has been licensed to Calico Energy Services of Bellevue, Wash. Battelle, which manages PNNL for the Department of Energy, licensed to Calico a portfolio of smart grid-related intellectual property. The portfolio was developed in response to the critical challenges facing electric utilities today, including the need to improve reliability, reduce costs, and integrate renewable energy.

Why it matters

"PNNL's technology represents a major leap forward in our nation's ability to manage grid reliability, balance the ever-expanding complexities of our electricity distribution system, integrate renewables and engage consumers in energy savings programs," said PNNL engineer Rob Pratt, who led the team that developed the licensed technology. "We look forward to seeing utilities and consumers benefit from this technology."  


The innovative Patent Portfolio is based on a single, integrated smart grid model that uses an economic signal to automatically balance supply and demand at the lowest possible cost. Sophisticated algorithms enable a variety of intelligent devices within a distribution system to address electricity imbalances in real-time -- using automated demand response and real-time bidding that is orders of magnitude faster than human operators. These devices include generation, storage, renewable energy generation, and end-point controls such as thermostats, hot water heaters, and large load controllers.

"PNNL's Patent Portfolio is a breakthrough that allows an electric power system to virtually balance itself," said Jesse Berst, founder and chief analyst at, the Internet's oldest and largest smart grid site. "The traditional method uses centralized manual dispatch to coordinate supply and demand. But manual methods will never keep up with our new systems, which will have hundreds of thousands of distributed resources scattered throughout. To manage that kind of complexity, you must distribute and automate the process, as PNNL has now made possible."

PNNL's technology will be commercialized into a module of Calico’s Energy Intelligence Suite™ (EIS™). EIS acts as a unified operations center that integrates disparate data, devices, software engines, and applications. It allows utilities to make informed decisions and to precisely control energy resources and grid assets.

PNNL's technology has already proven highly effective in real-world installations, such as the Pacific Northwest GridWise™ Demonstration Project, which PNNL led on Washington State's Olympic Peninsula from 2006 to 2007. A related version of the technology is also being used in the Battelle-led Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project, a large-scale demonstration project designed to help bring the nation's electric transmission system into the information age. It has demonstrated the ability to provide a market mechanism to reward electricity consumers, while reducing energy consumption where and when it is needed using real-time demand and pricing signals.


PNNL's development of the technology was funded by DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

February 8, 2013

Page 511 of 1046

Energy and Environment

Core Research Areas