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Buildings to Grid Integration

The U.S. Department of Energy's Building Technologies Office is coordinating strategies and activities with companies, individuals, and government entities to address the integration and optimization of buildings with the nation's energy grid.

Buildings and the Energy Grid

As electricity demand continues to increase, integrating buildings and the electricity grid is a key step to increasing energy efficiency. Intermittent and/or variable generation sources, such as photovoltaic systems, as well as new load sources, such as electric vehicles, are being installed on the grid in increasing numbers and at more distributed locations. For example, the U.S. government, many states, municipalities, and utility service areas are diversifying and distributing their generation mix, including a larger percentage of renewable sources for environmental, energy security, reliability and economic reasons. In order to account for, and fully utilize those increased, diversified, and dispersed loads, efficient transactions between buildings and the grid need to become a commercial reality.

These resources have the potential to impact reliability of traditional electricity delivery. However, to support and enhance overall reliability given this new mix of generation sources, commercial building and residential electric loads—which constitute nearly 75% of national use today, according to the Energy Information Administration—must have the ability to quickly vary their usage with a direct positive impact on the existing electrical system. Open markets should be able to reconcile the cost and benefits of these complementary transactions between all interested participants to support value streams (new or existing) in energy efficiency, cost reduction, customer specific service needs, and enhanced reliability of the electricity infrastructure. This optimization can be facilitated with a common integrated approach to the exchange of energy related data, and any associated financial data.

1st Buildings to Grid Technical Meeting

As a first step to better understanding a range of perspectives on buildings-to-grid integration opportunities, the Building Technologies Office held a technical meeting on December 12-13, 2012. The meeting was hosted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at the Energy Systems Integration Facility, and participants included stakeholders from the private sector, utilities, universities, federal sector, and the Department of Energy's national laboratories.

Prior to the meeting, DOE distributed a technical booklet containing several short white papers to help guide the discussion. These white papers included:

  • A draft of the DOE's and BTO's vision of the National Value of Buildings to Grid Integration using Transaction Based Controls (found on page 6 of the technical booklet);
  • Short white papers that aimed to explore some of the opportunities and questions the meeting would address from the perspectives of the grid; buildings end-use; and communications and information technology (IT) (pages 24-28).

Key issues identified during the three working session discussions—on grid, buildings, and communications and IT opportunities and challenges—can be found in an appendix of the technical booklet (page 39).

To enhance the collective understanding of promising work in the buildings-to-grid area, six industry and academic participants gave presentations on ongoing projects. These projects included:

  • Bonneville Power Administration: Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project
  • George Institute of Technology: GENI Project
  • IBM: EcoGrid Denmark Project
  • University of California at Berkeley: Simple Measurement and Actuation Profile (sMAP)—Integrating and Managing Physical Data
  • SmarteBuildings: Next Generation Energy Measurement and Verification Service
  • Electric Power Research Institute: Open Automated Demand Response Demonstration Project

Buildings to Grid Technical Opportunities Papers

Following the December 2012 meeting at NREL and based in part on input at the meeting, BTO developed a paper more fully articulating a vision for residential and commercial buildings in realizing buildings-to-grid integration at scale. That long-term vision for buildings is that they will actively support the integration of renewable and other variable, distributed generation resources while simultaneously providing building owners with enhanced comfort, amenity and economic and other opportunities. Buildings will furthermore provide cost-effective resiliency and robustness to the grid, offset expensive new generation and transmission investments, and enable several ancillary benefits, such as supporting the deployment of EVs. The paper identifies key technical opportunities for helping to realize that vision and the national benefits of doing so.

BTO also worked with four of its DOE national laboratories – Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory – to develop papers that identify significant key technical opportunities for helping to realize the BTO vision from the distinct perspectives of buildings; the grid; and the critical enabler of information and communications technology.

Draft versions of the vision paper, and these related papers, were reviewed by industry, academic and other reviewers.