A New Opportunity: Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings

Connected buildings.

For electrical contractors involved in building-related energy management, such as sensors, analytics, and smart controls, a new opportunity in a burgeoning technology, according to a new report published by the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO).

The report, Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings: State Briefing Paper, notes that, as variable renewable generation and distributed energy resources (DERs) grow, the management of electricity is becoming more complex. The report sees DERs as encompassing energy efficiency, demand response, on-site generation, energy storage and electric vehicles.

“Fortunately, advancing technologies open the prospect for more flexible management of buildings and facility energy loads to benefit occupants, owners, and the grid,” said the report. “Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings (GEBs) take advantage of these new capabilities to optimize energy management by using sensors, analytics, and smart controls to best serve the needs of the occupants while consider the grid and external conditions (such as peak loads and weather).” 

According to the report, GEBs can lower costs, enhance resilience, reduce emissions, reduce peak loads, moderate the ramping of demand, provide grid services, enhance energy efficiency, and integrate distributed and renewable energy resources.

GEBs have four features. First, they exhibit a high level of energy efficiency, including active electrical and mechanical components (heating, cooling, lighting, refrigeration, and other appliances), as well as passive elements (insulation, etc.).

Second, they are connected, in that they feature two-way communication of signals between buildings (including their occupants and operators) and the grid. These signals may directly control or monitor equipment or may indicate prices and grid conditions that trigger building automation systems to act in accord with economic incentives and customer preferences.

Third, they are smart, employing sensors, controls, and analytics to optimize the performance of the buildings in order to meet occupant needs and deliver grid services.

Finally, they are flexible, in that they are able to adjust loads and/or draw on DERs quickly to deliver optimal performance.

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