How the smart grid will affect building owners



Quick Take:  The long anticipated marriage of smart buildings and smart grids continues to edge closer to reality. A recent article in Consulting-Specifying Engineer provides guidelines for building owners and the consultants who assist them. - By Jesse Berst


Many buildings are already smart, thanks to building automation systems (BAS) that show exactly what's happening inside. Indeed, building automation has been evolving for more than 40 years. The next step is to integrate smart buildings into the smart grid.


Eventually, the smart grid will be able to communicate directly with individual buildings and even with individual devices inside. The traditional power grid is a one-way stream of power that reacts relatively slowly to changes in demand. The smart grid will be able to adjust both supply and demand in real time to match.


As the smart grid continues to evolve, it will provide building owners and managers with opportunities for cost savings. Gradually, a strong business case is emerging. Building owners must proceed with caution at this early stage, but the day is coming when commercial building owners who do not interact with the smart grid will be at a competitive disadvantage.


Assessment is the first step

The more a building is centrally monitored and controlled, the greater its potential benefit to the smart grid. For instance, being able to isolate each major piece of an HVAC system allows for more flexibility to take advantage of dynamic pricing or demand response (DR).


DR is the most common cost-saving opportunity. DR contracts are negotiated between businesses and utilities (or between third-party companies that aggregate many businesses). In addition to DR opportunities, owners and managers can sometimes use the information garnered from smart meters to benefit from dynamic pricing - for instance by running equipment when power prices are lower.


Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.


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