October 2006
Interview
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EMAIL INTERVIEW  Jack Mc Gowan & Ken Sinclair

Jack McGowanConnectivityWeek Amsterdam & SingaporeThe GridWise effort has generated a significant amount of attention during the last year. GridWise is a Department of Energy Program under the Office of Electricity that has the goal of achieving interoperability across the electric grid. The belief is that this will allow utilities to optimize performance of the electric grid, and to make it more reliable and efficient. In years past the concept of using interoperability to reduce electric sales would have been undesirable to utilities, but things have changed. Many utilities are already facing shortfalls in generation, transmission and distribution, and the DOE projects a 40% increase in electric demand over the next 20 years. To begin addressing this issue the DOE impaneled a GridWise Architecture Council, made up of 13 national experts in electricity, information technology, buildings, energy markets and building automation. Jack Mc Gowan is the GridWise Council Member representing buildings and automation, and he has been a GridWise spokesperson in 2006 bringing this message around the world. He is also a Contributing Editor with AutomatedBuildings.com, so we asked him to share some insights with us on GridWise.


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Sinclair:  Jack how did you get involved with GridWise?

Mc Gowan:  Well Ken, GridWise is an energy initiative and so it was not a new idea to me. I have been using technology to solve energy problems, save money for customers and optimize building performance for twenty-five years. The DOE invited me to serve on the GridWise Architecture Council two years ago, and I did not hesitate. I believe the next frontier for integration is to combine smart buildings with a smart grid. All you have to do is look at WalMart and RFID or the manufacturing sector and “just in time” to see examples of industries that have embraced technology to dramatically improve their processes. The electric industry is ready for just such a change. Twenty-two years ago I wrote my first article on open systems for buildings, and I see this idea of an “interoperable electric grid” to be just as needed today, as open building systems were then. This belief has only been strengthened by the major resurgence of energy as a hot topic. This summer there was an outage in Queens, which a number of analysts say cost customers millions of dollars. Of course the volatility in oil and natural gas prices also gets a lot of attention, but electricity is the highest quality fuel and it is critical to critical operations in buildings, hospitals, IT and a host of applications. So I was pleased to become one of the first council members and to bring my experience with buildings and energy to GridWise.

Sinclair:  What has the last year brought for GridWise?

Mc Gowan:  This has been a real building year for this idea. I have been asked to speak on GridWise at dozens of events, trade shows, sales meetings and other gatherings. Everyone seems to want to know what GridWise is about and how it will affect their world. With the help of Anto Budiardjo, we did a GridWise Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in December 2005 followed by a GridWise Expo in Palm Springs in May 2006. The latter was a major event with two days of sessions and over 25 speakers covering a impressive breadth of industries. In addition, I was invited to speak at the Tridium Niagara Summit, the BNP Building Automation Conferences in Baltimore and San Diego, and BuilConn Europe. The venues are not as important as this topic however, and I believe all of this interest indicates that “Grid-integrated Smart Buildings” are the next frontier for the automation industry.

Sinclair:  What is a Grid-integrated Smart Building and how does it relate to our industry?

Mc Gowan:  I believe these buildings will blend traditional DDC with Information Technology (IT), Enterprise Energy Management (EEM) and Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) to build a value proposition around building uptime and performance. Quite simply energy, electricity in particular, is the life blood of our economy, but we are facing significant challenges with a projected 40% increase in demand. The value proposition that has sold building automation over the last 20 years is gone. These products are rapidly becoming commodities and companies that want to remain viable in this market need to develop new business models. I believe that uptime and performance will evolve as a unifying model for the industry. You don’t have to look far to see evidence that a number of large companies may be positioning themselves for a major push in this direction. In the last year Honeywell made a number of strategic purchases including Tridium and Sempra Energy Services that seem to very effectively compliment their controls line and offer the opportunity to pursue this type of approach. Schneider Electric, a European energy company added to their base with TAC and Andover Controls and followed up with acquisitions of ABACUS Energy Services and Power Measurement for Enterprise Energy Management. It is quite interesting how important energy is to the concept of uptime and performance, in fact I have asked audiences at a number of meetings this year if they remember when Direct Digital Controls (DDC) was called Energy Management Systems (EMS)?

Tridium Sinclair:  This all sounds great but it seems that Grid-integrated Smart Buildings are way out in the future.

Mc Gowan:  Some of the opportunity here is clearly in the future, but there is significant opportunity to generate GridWise benefits today. A fully functioning Grid-integrated Smart Building may be decades off, but using automation to reduce energy costs is nothing new to integrators. In addition to justifying automation on energy savings another burgeoning market is Automated Demand Response (ADR), which uses new and existing automation systems to shed power consuming equipment automatically, at critical times for the utility to avoid power disruptions. ADR is easily a $200 million per year market in the U.S. today and growing. Utilities in dozens of states are paying customers tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars, to implement technologies that will allow them to shed loads with electronic notice. The automation system is central to these programs and many integrators are already active in helping their customers achieve this mutual benefit. The key here is that automation systems can shed the load, but they can also be used to implement strategies that will minimize the negative impact of turning off that equipment. Automation is being used to shed non-essential equipment, but creativity is key because more customers will not agree to simply go home because the utility needs load. Some strategies that are easy to implement using automation and allow business to continue even when load is shed for an hour or two are pre-cooling, sequencing thermal storage to shed chillers or bringing on distributed generation and emergency generators to make up power needs.

Sinclair:  Ok so I am really interested now, where can I learn more about GridWise?

Mc Gowan:  As I said BuilConn Europe is coming up Oct. 4-6 and there will be a session on the Future Smart Grid. Closer to home I will be speaking at AHR in Dallas with a free track on GridWise including several GridWise thought leaders, and GridWeek will be a week long series of events in Washington DC sometime in March of 2007. In the meantime, keep an eye out for my articles in www.automatedbuildings.com. If you click on my name as Contributing Editor there are a number of recent pieces on this topic.

Sinclair:  Thanks Jack, we will be looking for updates as GridWise continues to unfold.

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