The Automated Buildings Industry is ready, willing, and able to bring real GridWise solutions to GridWeek in Washington DC. “Many of the solutions to the shortfall in electricity will come down to reducing demand especially at peak load times, and much of this will happen in buildings through building automation.” This quote was taken from an interview I conducted with Anto Budiardjo, organizer of GridWeek about the event (

Over the past several years, the building industry has invested heavily in the automation of speed controls to achieve energy savings. Most pumps, fans, chillers, and other building components have been built or converted to operate with just enough speed/power to meet required conditions. Unleashing this equipment to become an interactive part of the electrical grid in a GridWise fashion is part of the focus of GridWeek. The building automation industry is ready, willing, and able to make this happen.

Helping Out The Grid

In addition to rolling stock in a building, it is not uncommon today to have daylighting control that lowers light levels when outside ambient lighting is high. Newer technology buildings even include the control of the shading of the envelope fenestration to lower refrigeration peaks and increase comfort.

Most existing BAS have at least some rudimentary electrical metering of the electrical supply taken off the grid, and are connected to the Internet. If the correct financial equation is created by the GridWise / GridWeek stakeholders with a request to buy back peak electrical demand from buildings, the buildings can and will interact with the grid, giving valuable peak power back at the grid’s peak demand. This may or may not be the same as the building’s peak. Existing installed speed and dimming technology will allow a quick reaction and a smooth reduction, a far cry from the lumpy on/off action of the 1970s-, ’80s- and ’90s-era equipment.

If this type of conservation upgrade using speed drives and daylighting has not already been done, even greater opportunities exist to reduce the building’s peak demand as well as consumption.

Most buildings have their own onsite generation for life safety reasons. This generation must be tested usually at least once a month. The reality of running this generation to assist the grid to solve peaking problems is very real. Where peaks are short, this provides a real solution without any additional expenditure of capital cost for generation only the transferred energy cost.

Demand Curtailment and You

All of the above interactions with the grid need to be done not just for lack of total grid generation capacity; this interactivity can also be available for localized distribution problems and failures such as downed power lines and transformer failures, etc.

So why has this not happened on a wider scale? There have been several successful examples of demand curtailment in the past but more generation was always presented as the most economical solution by utility companies. In today’s world, increasing energy costs, and to a greater extent the environmental impact of new generation with its human outcry, has prevented or at least curtailed growth. When the cost of providing new generation and the related infrastructure just for peak power loads is redeployed to provide incentive to provide a GridWise grid, the benefits to all are incredible. Buying peak power back from buildings is a sound concept, one which opens up communication dialog that should have started years ago.

Our industry is excited about applying today’s green concepts to greatly lower the total energy intensity of our new buildings. Net zero buildings are now being built that do not require connection to the grid.

In looking to the near sustainable future and alternative energy sources, the concept of the building as the power plant is becoming real. In this model, the building is the local generation source eliminating the large transmission loss, while providing power back to the local grid when it is needed. Power is generated by roofs covered with photovoltaics, wind generators, or other renewal resources. Buildings now exist that demonstrate this concept.

Other opportunities will exist once maintaining a reliable grid becomes everyone’s focus. During off peak periods, usually in the middle of the night, the complete grid and generation system is under utilized as all equipment is sized for peak demand and the already low efficiency drops even further.

Making all off-peak infrastructure available to the building industry by buying back electrical demand allows us to invest in concepts such as the storage of cooling, heating, even power itself. This stored energy/power can then be re-utilized during daytime peak to help the grid meet new electrical demand without the addition of new generation.ES