Future Ready: Operating in the Energy Cloud

The “Energy Cloud,” like other IOT networks, are being designed to increase efficiencies in energy systems across commercial building types and users. Even beyond energy, key trends pushing this movement forward include increased regulations to reduce carbon emissions; transition to decentralized grids; more customer decisions and choices for equipment and systems types; cost/savings; and increasing data availability and use.

Energy-focused institutions like the U.S. Department of Energy, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and Navigant, to mention several, have written industry papers weighing in on the case for Building-to-Grid (B2G) facilities and, similarly, Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings (GEBs).

But first of all, what do these terms — B2G and GEBs — mean? 

Navigant describes Building-to-Grid as a facility or portfolio process that “fundamentally redefines the relationship between energy supply and demand.” B2G is about the interaction of building automation and controls with “bolt-on” infrastructure (distributed energy resources, or DERs, such as solar, storage, or EV charging infrastructure) and coordinating these systems with third-party services like utilities.

The DOE and ACEEE define a Grid-interactive Efficient Building (GEB) similarly, as “an energy efficient building with smart technologies characterized by the active use of DERs to optimize energy use for grid services, occupant needs and preferences, and cost reductions in a continuous and integrated way.”

Are B2G and GEBs essentially the same thing?

Both are designed and optimized for energy-efficient performance to reduce net energy consumption and peak demand. Both are directly grid-connected with the ability to send and receive signals to respond to grid or facility needs that are time dependent. Both are driven by analytics-supported sensing and optimized controls. And, both are flexible — the building energy loads can be dynamically shaped, optimized and delivered on a supply and demand “two-way street” between the local grid and the facility, behind-the-meter, for power generation, energy use, and energy storage. For example, a building can use its own energy storage when the grid is at peak use, and can reduce energy consumption during peak times. Conversely, the same building can draw energy from the grid according to need.

What’s the current status of B2G and GEBs?

Research, policy changes and utility provisions are working to enable grid-integrated buildings. Researchers at New York University are investigating how to create a connection between a commercial building’s energy management information system (EMIS) and a distributed energy resource management system. California’s recent Senate Bill 49, promotes flexible demand by prioritizing grid-interactive building appliances and equipment (California Senate 2019).

Navigant’s white paper, “Building-To-Grid: Industry Transformation for Flexible, Integrated, Value-Generating Resources,” provides a graphic illustration of B2G as an incremental development process, beginning with the digitization of building systems and devices:

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