June 2009


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Conversation between Intelligent Buildings and Smart Energy

As I write this, the Interim Roadmap for the Smart Grid has not been published. What follows is my view of how this area will develop.

Toby ConsidineToby Considine
Systems Specialist,
Facility Services, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
The New Daedalus

Contributing Editor

Intelligent buildings filled with clever devices and intelligent systems will negotiate with the grid and with their occupants to provide new models for reliable power. The benefits to the grid will come from coordinating supply and demand using economic signals. The benefits to the buildings will be increased value by providing higher levels of amenities to their tenants and inhabitants for lower cost. The benefits to the tenants and occupants will be better services at the same or lower costs and more autonomy as they separate from grid dependency. The benefit to the clever devices will be longer life and more reliable operations from eliminating the power shocks that assail them now.

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The benefits to building owners will be economic models that offer incentives to pay for improved equipment. The benefit to building integrators will be national markets based on common signals from the grid, allowing them to provide more services to those owners for less.  The benefit to ventures and technology development will be the entry of all those building owners into the markets for generation and storage; those owners will offer a shorter sales cycle and more openness to innovation than ever will the utilities.

This requires a small simple model for interactions. To create this model, we must think clearly about the business process of each of these participants. Today, we have the virtual company in every niche of our economy. UPS and FedEx offer logistics services that are part of the internal processes of thousands of companies. Tomorrow we will have virtual energy services companies as well, assembled from the services offered by a community more numerous and diverse than today.

Each building will communicate with the grid by two services: the metering service and the energy management services (EMS). 

The metering service (which does not necessarily mean the meter) will provide live and interval measurement of energy flows into and out of the building. This service will be symmetrical, meaning both the supplier and the consumer will be able to see the same information at the same time. The meter service will also be the end point of the energy distribution control system, providing telemetry to enhance customer service and downtime recognition.

The EMS will be the focus of business interactions. On the outside, the EMS will manage the business negotiations for each building. On the outside of the building, the EMS will be the locus of energy market operations. Buying, selling, and price decisions will flow to and from the outside of the EMS.

On the inside of the EMS, developers and integrators will build applications to manage moment by moment energy use. The energy management applications will respond to the needs of the Industry, Office, or Home. The EMS will inform them of market negotiations on the outside. They will catalogue the devices and systems inside the building. They will marshal potential responses the smart grid market signals. They will share these responses with the EMS agent to inform its negotiations in energy markets.

A key service offered by the EMS will be to relay energy management services to external parties. Many businesses and homes will want to out-source their energy management; the EMS will support this. Some utilities will want to offer this outsource energy management to their customers. Some utilities will mandate, as they do today, that accepting their energy management services is a condition of participating in certain programs.

contemporary I have written elsewhere, when discussing plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), that eliminating regulatory barriers to retail re-sale of energy will help achieve some benefits of the smart grid. At the EMS, this means that sometimes there will be additional EMS systems below the EMS that talks to the smart grid.  The educational campus, office park, and military base may have many buildings, each with their own EMS. Even office buildings may have an EMS in front of each tenant. Between the EMS at the edge of the grid, and each EMS below, there can be a whole new energy market.

Distributed generation and distributed storage are important aspects of the smart grid.  The EMS must be able to marshal the generation and storage of the building side to respond to market signals from the grid. If these resources are inside a building, then there can be  a micro-market inside that building. On the base or campus microgrid, these resources may be directly attached, external to the buildings. In either case, the messages and market operations on the client side of the EMS should be the same as those on the outside.

The smart grid roadmap cites loose coupling, layered architectures, composition, and symmetry as critical design values. The EMS as defined above uses loose coupling and avoids direct control. Symmetry enables us to define the same services on either side of the EMS, and for the meters to report net use and net supply identically. Layering lets the conversation above proceed without ever mentioning data paths or transport protocols; it works the same whether the EMS is separately attached to the internet, or bound to the meter and communicating over utility infrastructure. Composition lets price and supply and value flow through multiple domains.

Automatedbuildings.com readers should watch the development of the EMS, and consider what value they can deliver once we define the interfaces of the EMS. If you want to participate in the development, write me about the Technical Committees defining Energy Interoperability and Energy Market Information Exchange.



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