Grid-interactive efficient buildings are the future, and utilities can help lead the way

(ACEEE blog, 20 Nov 2019) More utilities across the United States are adopting programs to promote grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEBs), which will be critical to the grid of the future.

Some programs focus on energy savings and others on demand flexibility, but none of those surveyed reap the benefits of fully integrating both, according to ACEEE research released today.

These buildings, also called “smart buildings,” are increasingly important. They can help utilities adapt to rapid changes in the grid, including the adoption of technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps, as well as new policy directions like beneficial electrification. They deliver substantial energy and emission reductions by using highly efficient materials and equipment. They can also act as resources to the grid, by using less overall energy than a normal building and strategically shifting or reducing energy consumption during peak times.

Utilities and program administrators would benefit greatly from creating programs that accurately value both energy efficiency and grid flexibility benefits. Instead, these programs remain segregated with separate goals and objectives.

GEB programs vary widely

Utilities are expanding programs to make buildings efficient and grid interactive. The plot below shows a range of program types. The lower end of the scale (representing less complexity and integration) includes programs like automated demand response (ADR) that send a signal to equipment in a building to reduce its load. These programs, such as Duke Energy’s EnergyWise program and Austin Energy’s Load Co-op pilot, do a great job of providing grid benefits, but do not include energy efficiency.

Moving up the scale, other ADR programs also promote energy efficiency by offering additional incentives for efficiency measures, such as PG&E’s ADR program and Dominion’s Smart Thermostat program.

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ACEEE blog, 20 Nov 2019: Grid-interactive efficient buildings are the future, and utilities can help lead the way