November 2009

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Managed Energy, Collaborative Energy, and Autonomous Load

There are two fundamentally different approaches to Energy Interoperation: managed energy and collaborative energy.


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

Contributing Editor

Under managed energy, the energy provider directly manages the devices and systems in the end nodes using direct control signals. Utilities designed early smart grid deployments to communicate with the smallest, cheapest systems, ones that can fit easily into appliances and home thermostats. Social equity concerns, i.e., mandates that low income consumers have access to the benefits of smart energy, dictated that these devices could not materially affect the price appliances. Consumers want reliable systems; it is hard to convince them to pay more for systems that can be turned off by someone else.

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Utilities often refer to this approach as the Residential option. Occasionally they refer to it as the ZigBee approach, because that trade association is the primary technology used to install these low end systems. Others may call it the OpenHAN (Home Area Network) approach, although the information and interactions are indistinguishable from those of ZigBee.

Managed energy is also used for some small commercial buildings.

Collaborative energy relies on clear price signals and market interactions to engage the occupants of the end nodes in active participation in energy. Today, early forms of collaborative energy are in operation, the result of custom engineering and proprietary signals. In a few places, these buildings receive signals form OpenADR (automated demand response). OpenADR is a hybrid signal, halfway between managed and collaborative energy.

A key agreement along the national smart grid standards roadmap was that collaborative and managed energy would be full peers, developed side by side. Where appropriate both would use semantics from the Power Management Common Information Model (CIM) developed by IEC TC57. Collaborative energy, though, will not adopt the deep integration that characterizes CIM-based integration.

The key standards committees of collaborative energy are making loose, light, and market-centric interfaces. EMIX (Energy Market Information Exchange) communicates price and product descriptions—and prices and products vary over time. Energy Interoperation, the successor to OpenADR, defines the interactions between the grid and end nodes, and includes distributed energy resources (DER) (site-based storage and generation) as well as demand response. WS-Calendar will define the time and interval aspects of the above standards. We plan to incorporate WS-Calendar into oBIX as well.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] The one part that remains is access to live energy usage information. The utilities continue to guard this information closely, pretending that it “might not be accurate”. Meter quality control was critical when a meter reader might write down numbers incorrectly, or be chased from a yard by a dog. With today’s digital readings, it is a transparent sham. With OpenADE, the utilities are reluctantly sharing day later data with Google and Microsoft, but not the building occupants in real time.

A new group, the Energy Information Standards Association (EISA) is trying to address this last critical element. Their vision includes not only a standard format for live energy usage from the meter, but from each intelligent appliance and system in the building as well. The first thing this does it let building-based systems not only understand the total energy load of the building, but to be able to distinguish between the smart or collaborative load and the dumb or unmanaged load. The second and more exciting part is it enables autonomous load shaping.

Autonomous load shaping gets buildings ready for site-based energy storage and generation. Today, energy spikes, say when the motors in two systems start at the same time, are handled by the abundant energy of the grid. A building running on a battery or on site-based solar does not have that luxury. It has a fixed energy budget that it must live inside. Autonomous load shaping not only creates a more valuable asset to the smart grid. It increases the value of a building’s internal energy resources.

Regular readers will recognize collaborative energy as a market opportunity for automated buildings suppliers and integrators. Autonomous load shaping will expand the market for intelligent systems in buildings. Watch the market standards of the smart grid closely as they develop.


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