4 FM quick reads on Demand-Response
1. Automated Demand-Response Increases
Today's tip is about automated demand-response, a strategy gaining in popularity and use among facility managers, and a strategy that can result in big energy savings.
You're probably already familiar with demand-response. It's a simple way to shave a few bucks here and there off of your monthly utility bill by undertaking temporary and voluntary reductions in energy use - lowering lighting, increasing the set point on the HVAC system slightly, or turning off a couple of elevators.
But in many cases, demand-response is still a manual function — facility managers choose which things to turn off or turn down, and then use their BAS to do so, or still in some case, go out and manually hit switches. Oftentimes, notification from the utility of a demand-response event, which usually coincides with the afternoon peak hours when electricity demand is very high and expensive to produce, comes via text message, e-mail or phone call. Facility managers then implement those demand-response plans and notify occupants that the facility is in a demand-response event for the next several hours or so.
These days, a strategy called automated demand-response is becoming increasingly popular, especially as facility managers continue to take advantage of the increasing expertise and technology resulting from continued emphasis on making the grid smarter.
Automated demand-response allows the utility to send a notification to a facility's building automation system, at which time, the BAS automatically initiates a pre-designed demand-response plan. So, with automated demand-response, the process of responding to an event is much easier, indeed it's automatic. You have the fancy BAS system, now why not take advantage of all its capabilities?
In addition to automated demand-response, which some experts estimate make up only about 10 percent of all demand-response programs, soon, facility managers will have more options about how to take advantage of real-time pricing and how to run facility equipment based on the specific cost of a kilowatt hour at a particular time.
2. Smart Grid is HERE
Today's tip is about how you can best prepare your buildings for the new smart grid. Facility managers have been hearing for years that smart grid is coming, so prepare, prepare, prepare. But here's a little secret: Smart grid, in large part, is here!
But let's back up a second and think about what smart grid actually is: Basically, "smart grid" describes increased capabilities in the nation's energy grid that will allow for two-way communications between facilities (and even devices) and the utility. The smart grid will also provide better power reliability and quality, and better efficiency in transmission.
One of the sure signs that smart grid is here is the increase in automated demand response programs. Even though many facility managers may not immediately recognize this as taking advantage of smart grid, an ADR is, in fact, exactly what a smart grid provides. Smart energy management systems that ratchet building systems up and down automatically during peak demand periods are commonplace now. Here's one simplified example: A smart meter can send a signal to the BAS so that a variable speed drive is slowed by 20 percent for 10 minutes. This reduces the motor's energy use by 40 percent. Once the 10 minutes are up, the VFD goes back to full speed and a different VFD is slowed. Occupants are unlikely to notice the change, and peak load is reduced. Small changes like this could add up to huge savings once facility managers become adept at looking for the many energy-saving opportunities smart grid provides.
The next evolution of what we're commonly calling smart grid — and let's be honest, smart grid is kind of a catch-all term to refer to how utilities and facilities will interact — is real-time pricing. Facility managers will be able to program energy management systems to optimize how the facility uses energy when energy is the cheapest. They may not necessarily save a tremendous amount of kilowatt hours, but they'll certainly save cost.
While many of the overarching benefits of smart grid accrue to the utilities, these advantages are ones facility managers can take advantage of now. Explore these options with your local utility, if you haven't already.
3. OpenADR Helps Standardize Demand-Response
Today's tip is about an advance in automated demand-response systems that can help standardize how such systems are delivered in the marketplace.
You're probably already familiar with demand-response. It's a simple way to shave off a few bucks here and there from your monthly utility bill by undertaking temporary and voluntary reductions in energy use — lowering lighting, increasing the set point on the HVAC system slightly, or turning off a couple of elevators.
Automated demand response furthers the traditional DR by making it, well, automated. Automated demand-response allows the utility to send a notification to a facility's building automation system, at which time, the BAS automatically initiates a pre-designed demand-response plan. So, with automated demand-response, the process of responding to an event is much easier, indeed it's automatic.
Now automated demand response is moving a step further. The Demand Response Research Center (DRRC), part of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, developed the Open Automated Demand Response, or OpenADR, standard to expand the availability and improve the effectiveness and value of demand response programs. The standard allows more scalability and flexibility for ADR programs and allows the facility manager to make more decisions by integrating the system with existing building automation and control systems.
The DRRC has initiated an effort to make OpenADR a national standard sometime in the near future. This would be a tremendous benefit to facility managers who hope to work with a third-party vendor and their utility to implement an ADR system.
4. The Risks and Benefits of Demand-Response Programs
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is to understand what demand-response programs can - and can't - do for you.
Demand-response programs are expanding rapidly nationwide as utilities struggle to keep pace with the growing demand for electricity. As the United States moves closer to implementing a smart grid, maintenance and engineering managers might find that demand-response programs are a key element of their facilities' operations.
The purpose of such a program is to allow utilities to reduce electrical energy use in response to peak-demand levels, which place stress on the electrical grid and result in high wholesale electricity prices or problems within the distribution system that could result in a system outage if not corrected.
For commercial and institutional facilities, a demand-response program can reduce costs and, in some cases, generate revenue. But before managers enroll their organizations in demand-response programs, they must understand the risks and benefits of a program. They also have to make sure their facilities can meet reduced electrical demands, and they need to communicate the way participation in the plan will affect building occupants.
Under most demand-response programs, a facility — in many cases the engineering or maintenance department — receives notification for a demand-response event. Managers and front-line technicians take steps to reduce their demand for electricity according to a pre-planned load-reduction scheme.
Program details determine the amount of advance warning a facility receives, the load it must reduce, and the length of time it must sustain that reduction. Managers do have the option of using on-site generation capabilities instead of shedding electrical loads. Demand-response incentives vary by program, but they typically include rebates and avoidance of short-term increases in electricity prices.
While demand-response programs offer economic benefits, not all organizations can or should participate. For example, health care facilities — particularly those without large central plants — might not be able to reduce their electrical loads enough without interfering with patient comfort or safety. Similarly, large information-technology centers might not be able to shut down sufficient loads without putting equipment at risk. Retail facilities might not be able to lower or shut down air-conditioning loads without compromising customer comfort.
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