Researchers at the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) have completed what is believed to be the first successful test evaluating automated demand response at five large building facilities.

Automated demand response manages electrical use in buildings over the Internet whenever there are high prices, blackouts, or overloaded electrical demand that threatens the power grid.

"This is the first test of fully automated demand response in multiple large buildings to reduce electricity consumption with two-way Internet-based communications," stated principal investigator Mary Ann Piette of LBNL's Environmental Energy Technologies Division.

"We used a fictitious electricity price to trigger the demand-response event over the Internet, which is an example of what might be used in the future; no one touched any control systems during our test," said Piette. "When an XML signal broadcast over the Internet indicated that the price of electricity hit 30 cents per hour, the buildings automatically began to lower demand by reducing lights, air conditioning, and other activities. Two-way communications were used to observe that each site was listening to the price signal. When the Internet indicated that the price had reached 75 cents an hour, the buildings automatically took additional preplanned actions to further reduce electrical demand."

XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language, which is used to improve the exchange of structured data over the Web. It provides a common language for communicating with different energy management systems in the buildings.

The test, which was funded by the California Energy Commission's (CEC's) Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program, was conducted in the following buildings: an Albertsons grocery store; a Bank of America office building; Roche Palo Alto, a biotechnology facility; a library at the University of California at Santa Barbara; and the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland. The effort, led by Piette, used server technology developed by Infotility Inc. to manage the broadcast signal and acknowledge responses. Piette and her research team worked with facilities managers at the five locations to integrate the control software into their building control and energy information systems.

Future research will include additional testing and analysis at these and other sites.