Whole Foods Market Participates In CA DRAM Energy Program

The grocery store chain will employ energy storage in three northern California locations to reduce energy consumption and benefit from financial incentives through the state’s Demand Response Auction Mechanism (DRAM) program.

Whole Foods Market is now participating in California’s Demand Response Auction Mechanism (DRAM) market, which offers financial incentives for buildings that reduce power consumption. Under the guidance of the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), DRAM was developed in 2014 in an effort to harmonize utility-based reliability demand response with CAISO, the state’s grid operator. As Whole Foods grocery stores utilize energy storage in three of its northern California locations, it will be able to actively reduce power consumption, and benefit from these financial incentives. These incentives are provided during peak hours when demand for energy is high and the grid is stressed. By promoting energy use reduction, operators can better balance the power grid, rather than turn on natural gas peaker plants. As large power users, grocery stores can benefit from these incentives by both saving on energy costs and enjoying the financial rewards.

Photo: Whole Foods Market®

Whole Foods’ is participating throughout its use of Axiom Exergy’s Refrigeration Battery, which helps grocery stores save cost and balance the power grid through:

  • storing energy through its Refrigeration Battery, and then aggregating the loads through energy technology company, Leap for use in California’s DRAM market.
  • Offering real-time control, predictive analytics and advanced cloud computing to best store energy for use in grid services participation
  • Working autonomously and allowing revenue and analytics report directly from the customer portal

Axiom now uses its Refrigeration Battery platform to provide two major services, Energy Bill Management and Grid Services, to customers simultaneously. The Refrigeration Battery platform enables real-time control of a grocery store’s power consumption using an advanced cloud platform, predictive analytics, and a thermal energy storage retrofit.

The Refrigeration Battery platform actively manages the grocery store’s power consumption by intelligently modulating its refrigeration systems. It intelligently charges by freezing tanks of salt water when power demand and utility rates are low; then it autonomously discharges the cooling to offset refrigeration consumption when electricity demand and prices are high. (See overview from Axiom Energy below.)

energy storage
Image: Axiom Energy

During peak hours when demand for energy is high and the grid is stressed, grid operators in California and many other markets also provide direct financial incentives to reduce power consumption in order to balance the grid. Axiom’s new Grid Services application enables its customers to tap into these direct financial incentives for the first time.

“We are pleased to expand our use of innovative platforms like Axiom Exergy’s to unlock new value streams and increase sustainability in our stores,” said Tristam Coffin, director of sustainability & facilities at Whole Foods Market. “After a previous successful installation, we are happy to continue partnering with Axiom to implement more cutting-edge power management strategies.”

To make grid service participation possible, Axiom is working with energy technology company Leap, which serves as an aggregator of flexible loads to the California Demand Response Auction Mechanism (DRAM) market. Alongside Axiom, Leap works with other flexible loads like EV chargers, battery storage systems, and smart thermostats to form a virtual power plant. Utilities pay Leap’s virtual power plant to reduce load on demand, and Leap then compensates its load providers for their participation. As a load provider, Axiom receives signals from Leap’s Distributed Energy eXchange (DEX) API, bids flexible capacity into the market on an hourly basis based on available capacity, and delivers load reductions by modulating its customers’ thermal systems accordingly.

“With so many grocery stores and cold storage facilities operating on razor-thin margins, we are thrilled to offer a service that creates a low-risk and logical revenue stream,” said Amrit Robbins, CEO and co-founder of Axiom Exergy. “Sixty to seventy percent of a typical grocery store’s electricity bill is driven by power, or WHEN energy is consumed. With this robust platform, we can leverage our customers’ existing thermal systems to reduce their utility bills, unlock new grid services revenue streams, and protect against expensive food spoilage during power outages throughout their portfolio of buildings.”