Insider Reports

QUICK Sign-up

New Content Updates
Educational Webcast Alerts
Building Products/Technology Notices
Access Exclusive Member Content

All fields are required.

Building Operating Management

Beyond Smart Grid: New Terminology, Focus on Interoperability and Data

Third of a three-part article on how smart grid technology has dramatically changed how FMs use and analyze energy.
Using fault detection and diagnostics to crunch big data from building systems, Microsoft has saved millions of dollars at its Redmond campus. Microsoft

By Jack McGowan February 2017 - Energy Efficiency   Article Use Policy

Facility managers probably don’t hear as much about smart grid as they did in the past. That’s not surprising. DOE is focused today on “Building to Grid” (B2G) (strategies to enable buildings to connect seamlessly with the grid) and “transactive energy” (techniques for managing the generation, consumption, or flow of electric power in the grid so as to use economic or market-based approaches while ensuring grid reliability) promoting standards for solutions that think (i.e., coordinate) across the meter. Projects like Microsoft’s will be easier if new systems contain onboard standards that think across the meter. Near-term, solutions must work in existing buildings, which is where the greatest opportunity lies. This requires that integration technologies continue advancing, and standards are deployed.

In this regard, BACnet is particularly important for buildings. Articles about the IoT and big data developments in other industries emphasize that it will take time and big investments to make these ideas reality. BACnet is already the IoT for buildings. And ASHRAE has kept working on the standard.

Jim Lee, CEO, Cimetrics and former president of BACnet Manufacturers Association, notes that the BACnet Web Services addenda was recently published, and BACnet is coordinating with Project Haystack to develop semantic data models for building equipment.

Communication protocol standards may be familiar, but data models are new to some. Building analytics using big data require two things to succeed:
• a standard protocol allowing systems to exchange data and
• analytics tools to understand the data.

BACnet and integration address data exchange; Project Haystack was formed to address data understanding. For understanding, there must be a standard way to name data points and describe what’s measured: temperature, kWh, etc. That’s the goal of Project Haystack. The data standards will make it easier for companies to develop new big data and IoT solutions and will ultimately accelerate adoption of those solutions. The work of ASHRAE, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, and the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel also spawned the Facility Smart Grid Information Model (FSGIM), a new data standard (ANSI/ASHRAE/NEMA 201-2016) for modeling energy information in buildings, including the building-to-grid interface.

In high-performance buildings, technologies like analytics are used to understand operations, energy consumption, and the relationship to energy supply. Just as efficiency opportunities should be addressed before installing solar panels, “building understanding” is critical to achieving high performance, because you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Investment grade audits are a start in the process of acquiring understanding, but analytics are essential to strategically planning future deployments.

Another success story shows how important analytics are. In the Johnson Geo Centre, says Carey Collins, CopperTree Analytics general manager, “analytics were used to uncover operational issues in staging of heat pumps.” He reports that correcting those issues helped produce 18 percent energy savings in an already highly efficient building. “Analytics not only uncovered problems, but helped make the business case for investments,” he says.

Analytics tools are also critical to making results repeatable, ensuring that buildings continue performing, and to identifying appropriate steps to correct problems if performance falls. Once efficiency efforts have been completed, facility managers can evaluate whether strategies like distributed energy resources or microgrids make sense.

The urban myth when states were deregulating electricity was that having more sellers would reduce energy costs, but having more sellers is not as important as having smarter buyers. Beyond smart grid, the vision is that all buyers will be smart buyers.

John J. “Jack” McGowan, CEM, is principal with the McGowan Group. He is former CEO of Energy Control Inc., an OpTerra Energy Company. He is the author of Energy and Analytics, Big Data and Building Technology Integration, founding co-chair of NIST’s Building to Grid effort, and former chair of the Gridwise Architecture Council. He can be reached at

Email comments and questions to


Find us on Google+