In the age of renewable energy and smart technology, the traditional concept of a battery is being redefined. Enter the era of virtual batteries — a groundbreaking solution that leverages the collective power of flexible loads to stabilize the grid. This innovative approach is revolutionizing the way we manage energy consumption and mitigate the challenges of fluctuating supply and demand dynamics.

Flexible Loads: EVs and HVAC Systems

Key among these flexible loads are Electric Vehicle (EV) charging and Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. Unlike static loads such as lighting or appliances, EV charging, and HVAC consumption can be adjusted or scheduled to accommodate grid needs without compromising user comfort or convenience. This inherent flexibility makes them ideal candidates for inclusion in virtual battery schemes.

Electric Vehicle charging

Imagine a scenario where electric vehicles are not just a mode of transportation but also integral components of a dynamic energy ecosystem. Through smart charging algorithms and bi-directional communication between vehicles and the grid, EVs can act as distributed energy resources, actively responding to grid signals to either draw power or feed excess energy back into the system.

HVAC Systems

Similarly, HVAC systems, which typically contribute to peak demand during hot or cold weather, can be intelligently managed to smooth out load spikes. By adjusting temperature setpoints or implementing pre-cooling/pre-heating strategies during off-peak hours, HVAC units can reduce overall energy consumption while still meeting comfort requirements.

The beauty of virtual batteries lies in their scalability and adaptability. By aggregating thousands or even millions of individual loads, utilities and grid operators can create massive virtual batteries capable of providing significant grid services such as frequency regulation, load balancing, and voltage support. Moreover, the decentralized nature of virtual batteries enhances grid resilience by reducing reliance on centralized generation and transmission infrastructure.

Lights from electric cars on the highway - Emulate Energy.

Research Insights

In a study by the cofounder of Emulate Energy, Daria Madjidian, and his colleagues at MIT, titled “Emulating Batteries with Flexible Energy Demand, Fundamental Trade-offs, and Scheduling Policies”, the authors delve into the potential of utilizing the flexibility of flexible loads to emulate the functionality of a traditional battery. The paper investigates the fundamental properties of energy storage and explores the feasibility of aggregating flexible loads to mimic the behavior of a battery.

According to the findings of the study, a battery embodies three critical characteristics of energy storage: 

  • the capacity to store energy, 
  • the rate of energy absorption, 
  • and the rate of energy release. 

The authors derive upper bounds on the capacity achievable through the collective operation of flexible loads, highlighting a fundamental trade-off between the ability to absorb and release energy at high aggregate rates.


In conclusion, the emergence of virtual batteries marks a significant paradigm shift in how we conceive and manage energy systems. This innovative approach harnesses the flexibility of diverse electrical loads, such as Electric Vehicle (EV) charging and HVAC systems, to provide grid stabilization services traditionally associated with physical batteries. By leveraging smart algorithms and bidirectional communication, virtual batteries enable dynamic interaction between grid operators and distributed energy resources, unlocking new opportunities for grid optimization and resilience. After exploring the potential of electric vehicles and HVAC systems as a convenience load in a virtual battery, there is much more to explore about these transformative energy solutions. Stay tuned for our next blog post, where we delve into the latest developments in smart grid technology.

Author: Samir Sahyoun