November 2008

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…making sense of it all at Grid-Interop


John J. "Jack" Mc Gowan, CEM
Energy Control Inc
Contributing Editor

Readers may notice that over the past few years more and more of my writing has focused on energy. In this article the Certified Energy Manager “CEM” suffix is even added to my name. Though I have maintained that credential actively since 1984, in recent years I have simply omitted it from the authors name on the header. Well it is time to change that, and equally important it is time for the controls industry to take a hard look at a new type of integration: Energy Integration.

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This month in Atlanta a landmark event will take place. It will be the second Grid-Interop conference focusing on Interoperability technology for the electric grid, but it will be the first time that the conference is held in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 signed in December of last year, NIST was given responsibility for defining the interoperability standards that will enable the smart grid. NIST hit the ground running by setting up a Building to Grid Working group, as well as groups for residential, industrial and electricity transmission and distribution.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] The Building to Grid (B2G) effort is perhaps the best example of how something that sounds very utility-oriented is really coming home to the building automation world. Certainly there is a place for automation in green buildings, with Energy Star and with energy service companies, but this is completely different. B2G starts with Demand Response, a multi-billion market that requires automation technology to work, but will expand to a broad-based opportunity for system manufacturers and integrators to really make money from energy.

In addition to the big picture discussions on B2G and interoperability at Grid-Interop, there is work being done now on a second B2G Summit at AHR in Chicago 2009. At a time when the new construction market, which has driven automation sales for the last decade and a half, is in free fall, the automation industry should see energy as a major growth opportunity. For those who are thinking that the window for this opportunity has passed because of the slide in oil prices and for gasoline at the pump, don’t be deceived. Oil is used very little in buildings and gasoline is not used at all. The real story here is about electricity, and the market opportunity to leverage interoperability between building automation systems and the electric grid. This is a bright spot in all of the gloom that we see in the financial markets, and smart integrators will be making their way to these events, as well as to Connectivity Week in 2009.


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