The idea of bundling services is not new. Television, phone, Internet, insurance have been using this model for years, and utilities have been slow to take a page out of their book. Both commercial buildings and utilities have historically viewed energy efficiency (EE) and demand response (DR) as an “either/or” decision. While there have been barriers to keeping these initiatives apart, BuildingIQ’s technology has proven that it can overcome the hurdles that have kept EE and DR from being bundled to benefit both the utility and the customer.
Hurdle 1: Overcoming Upfront Costs
Since EE and DR are often siloed from each other, they typically have different allocations —when it comes to funding set aside— for each program by a utility. Bundling the services allows for the utility to share its deployment costs between the DR and EE buckets.
As a cloud-based solution, BuildingIQ’s platform requires little to no upfront costs and is offered on a subscription basis. The technology works on top of the existing Building Management System (BMS)— provided that the system uses BACnet/IP. A BuildingIQ Appliance loaded with our Site Agent interfaces with the BMS and acts as the intermediary to read and write points and schedules. Zone temperature setpoints and/or air handling unit static air temperature and static air pressure are the only points that are actually written to the BMS. In all other respects, the BMS software and processes are maintained.
In a practical sense, commercial entities get a two for one deal. If the end-client enrolls in an energy efficiency program on BuildingIQ’s platform, demand response is enabled by flipping a virtual switch that, in effect, uses usage and comfort as its primary efficiency parameters instead of its normal mode energy cost and comfort. Conversely, clients using BuildingIQ’s demand response service can simply extend their subscription to include 24/7 efficiency.
In a melded scenario, the majority of the time the system fine-tunes building controls to maximize the efficiency of a commercial building’s HVAC system based largely on cost and weather. When it receives DR signals from the utility, the building automatically switches modes to participate in DR events. On an event day, the platform will automatically work to minimize HVAC energy usage during peak demand hours within established comfort parameters, zone by zone.
The utility, therefore, reduces demand when nearing full capacity and the customer avoids demand charges during peak days while consistently lowering their utility bill throughout the year —on a single platform, automatically. Win-win.
Hurdle 2: Time is Money
BuildingIQ’s cloud-based solution not only saves time during installation, but it also requires little attention from the onsite staff. The automated nature of the services allows for a building to participate in DR events without little manual intervention, even better, building occupants can’t even tell that it is occurring. However, the system is manually tunable by the on-site staff so that they can apply their own expertise and intuition as to which areas of the building should, or should not, participate. The EE service is also a closed-loop solution. The platform models the thermal properties of a building, the occupancy patterns, occupant comfort, and weather forecast against energy pricing to come up with and automatically implement the most efficient HVAC operation.
Hurdle 3: Making Sure You’re Getting a Bang for Your Buck
Measurement and verification (M&V) of EE and DR programs have come up against many of the same challenges as the programs themselves. Differing processes for conducting this evaluation have kept them separate and have created complications for building owners looking to validate ROI. BuildingIQ has worked tirelessly to address this issue.
Advanced M&V platforms, like our recently announced automated M&V offering, can deliver faster, more reliable results than traditional approaches to validate the impact of energy savings measures. Through data visualization, the platform can help demonstrate the impact that the combined programs are generating. This can go a long way for creating a better customer relationship between the utility and the end-user. Verified results are clearly mapped out, creating a new level of transparency for the program.
Hurdle 4: Scalability
As a cloud-based platform, scale is not an issue. The bigger the better. The combination of DR and EE can be applied to a single building, a portfolio of buildings, or even city-wide. The more buildings that participate in a combined EE/DR program, the more dynamic, efficient, and resilient the power grid becomes.
As it is cloud-based, the platform will also never become outdated, making it future-proof. Unlike a mechanical upgrade that will age until it eventually hits the end of its useful life, the platform used for combined EE and DR services is constantly being updated to account for the latest industry trends and breakthroughs. This makes it an ideal solution for multi-year programs.
EE and DR programs can work together successfully —BuildingIQ has proven it. Bundling these services just plainly makes sense for utilities and their customers. As the utility-customer relationship continues to become more fluid in nature, the benefits of a combined EE and DR model will continue to become more clear and valuable.
Steve Nguyen is VP of Product and Marketing at BuildingIQ. He loves products and ideas that transform markets or society. Whether they are transformative in and of themselves, or because they are enablers. He’s driven by creating the stories, teams, and strategy that make these agents successful.