December 2011

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Chris KottingEMAIL INTERVIEW - Chris Kotting and Ken Sinclair

Chris Kotting, Executive Director, EIS Alliance

The EIS Alliance is a 501(c) not for profit corporation dedicated to the development of open standards and architectures supporting customer owned, operated and controlled equipment in a Smart Grid environment.  Prior to being named the Executive Director of the EIS Alliance, Chris Kotting worked in various infrastructure and policy areas in Electricity, Gas and Telecommunications sectors with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.  In addition to his work with the EIS Alliance, Chris is Co-Founder and Senior Consultant with ThinkSmartGrid, LLC.

An Introduction to the EIS Alliance.

The EIS Alliance was formed to develop, and promote the development of, standards for information about energy usage on the customer side of the meter.

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SinclairWhat is the EIS Alliance all about?

Kotting:  The EIS Alliance was formed to develop, and promote the development of, standards for information about energy usage on the customer side of the meter.  I realize that's a bit of a mouthful, so let me break it down a bit. 

The Alliance is pulling together experts from different companies and disciplines to ensure that the standards developed as part of Smart Grid meet the energy management needs of the end use customer, whether that customer is a residential consumer, a commercial building or a large industrial plant.  Specifically, the Alliance has thus far published Use Case documents that have been included in the development of a number of smart grid standards and processes by the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB) and ASHRAE, among others. 

The goal is to provide end-users of energy with the information and technologies they need to manage their energy usage in an efficient and economical way.  In addition to working on the customer side of the meter, the EIS Alliance is working with the larger Smart Grid development effort, to provide for an efficient and effective interface between customer owned and controlled equipment (what we call Customer Energy Management Systems or CEMS) and Utility Smart Grid systems.

SinclairBut there are already energy management systems in buildings.  This is “Automated Buildings” magazine, after all.  So what makes the EIS Alliance's approach any different?

KottingSure, there are energy management systems as part of both industrial process control systems and building management systems in large commercial buildings.  Three things make the EIS Alliance effort different. 

First, the development of information standards.  For the most part, existing systems are a product of either custom integration of hardware from different (and not always compatible) vendors, or single-source systems.  With the development of standardized ways of expressing energy usage and requirements, equipment is being developed that will interoperate smoothly with equipment from multiple vendors, as well as communicating with information provided by equipment and systems outside of the customer environment.  This will lower the cost of designing and manufacturing energy management systems and hardware, as well as the cost of implementing them.

Second, the ability of CEMS to integrate information from beyond the customer meter, whether it's usage information provided by the Utility, weather information from forecasters, or market information.  The ability to access information from beyond the meter to manage customer systems and equipment can go beyond optimizing energy usage, to being able to provide services to the Utility, like frequency regulation and VAR support, for which the customer (or as it sometimes said in Smart Grid discussions, the “prosumer”) gets paid.

Third, the cost of existing energy management systems makes them practical only for large facilities.  The EIS Alliance standards focus on the customer side of the meter, but across all sizes and kinds of customer.  This means that the standards, as well as the cost reductions, will open up new markets for energy management systems in smaller commercial and residential sectors.  Currently, energy management systems are common in industrial and large commercial facilities, but rare to nonexistent in the small commercial and residential markets.

SinclairIs this bad news for the folks who do building management systems integration?

KottingNo, it's good news.  Saying it is “bad news” is like saying that the proliferation of standards-based PC hardware in the 80's was bad news for software developers.  It wasn't bad news, but it did mean a transition from “big iron” mainframes, remote terminals and custom software to a very different, and far larger, market.  I think that the coming of Smart Grid and information standards for CEMS will lead to a similar expansion of the market for building management systems.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Sinclair So, in this larger market, who controls the equipment, the Utility?

KottingNo way.  The customer controls their equipment, but the customer may well make different decisions about what equipment to use, when and how, given that there will be a lot more information about how to manage costs. 

Industrial customers have to be able to manage their processes without concern that a decision made by some other entity will alter or stop those processes. 

Commercial customers are required by contract to maintain certain environments within the building envelope.  Here again, the equipment that maintains those environments has to be able to function without outside interference, once the decisions about how to operate have been made. 

Residential customers similarly want to maintain control of their own living space, and also want to protect their privacy.

Actually, the Utility taking control of customer equipment in a Smart Grid environment is a nightmare scenario for the Utility, even though some of them don't realize it yet.  Managing, communicating, and protecting all that information is an immense, complicated and costly challenge to meet, and it can be avoided by leaving control of customer equipment in the customers' hands.  Provide the customer with better information, and let the customer (or the customer's systems) make intelligent decisions.

SinclairWhat about electric vehicles, how do they fit into a CEMS?

KottingQuite nicely, actually.  The  EIS Alliance membership includes Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE) manufacturers, and in September of this year we published a series of Use Cases describing how an electric vehicle would interact with a CEMS.  The Use Cases are currently being used by a number of EV standards efforts, and are undergoing further development within the EIS Alliance.

In essence, an electric vehicle is a bit like a “CEMS within a CEMS” in that it is a load that needs energy, but it can also provide services to the CEMS.

SinclairSo what's next for the EIS Alliance?

KottingWe are continuing to add to the library of Use Cases, adding customer owned generation, energy storage, appliances and equipment, consumer electronics, and a host of others.  We are also working on a certification suite, so that interoperable devices can be readily identified, regardless of manufacturer or function in the customer environment.


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