Ham and eggs. Abbott and Costello. Batman and Robin. Hey, there are a lot of great duos in the world, and here’s another one: building management systems and automated demand response (DR) designed specifically for small- to medium-sized companies.
What makes this a great combo?
For one thing, building automation systems have traditionally been owned by large facilities with deep pockets. They haven’t been all that automated either. There’s often a need for staff – energy or building managers – who must oversee a facility’s performance and the participation in the DR program independently. Smaller organizations do not have the systems or the staff; this makes it hard for them to take advantage of DR revenues.
A study by the Energy Research Council (ERC) found that nearly 30 percent of mid-market companies were “extremely interested” or “very interested” in demand response revenues, but only 9 percent were taking advantage of the opportunities. ERC said this was “partly because of the amount of effort versus potential earnings.”
When building management technology teams up with automated DR, that effort goes down dramatically. Business owners and managers don’t need to run around the site, turning down lights and turning up thermostats on a hot summer day. They can let the building automation system manage the slight changes in setpoints that will offer grid and utility demand response without leaving customers in an uneasy sweat.
A study conducted by the Demand Response Research Center and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in California showed that very small commercial customers – those using less than 20 kW – could offer grid support and save money with simple automation. In this case, the automation used was communicating thermostats that could receive signals from the utility and would reduce air conditioning load. Overall, pilot participants delivered energy savings in the range of 20 percent and saved as much as 30 percent on their monthly bills. Three-quarters of the small business owners in the pilot program said they would participate in such programs again without the $120 incentive payment researchers gave them.
If simple air-conditioner load control can offer that much benefit, think of what a building management system could add to the picture. That’s why Enbala teamed up with NorthWrite, a company that offers energy efficiency services and delivers cloud-based building management at a fraction of the cost of traditional building automation systems. The technology coordinates optimal HVAC settings, lighting, equipment use and more to provide the greatest amount of possible benefit through bill savings and demand response revenues.
The combined DR/energy efficiency program is a big boost to small businesses. One organization using building management tools from NorthWrite shaved some $28,000 off its annual energy bill. If demand response had been part of that company’s package, the organization would have earned DR revenues tool.
This is the idea behind an innovative new program being piloted by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). It will connect small commercial loads to Enbala’s platform, aggregate the portfolio of assets and enable these small organizations to participate in DR programs run by New York’s Independent System Operator and Consolidated Edison. Since small firms generally don’t have the cash to install a building management system and energy efficiency equipment, the program also includes a creative financing element. To learn more about that part of the initiative, click here.