Grid-interactive efficient buildings may unlock energy savings, reduce carbon emissions


The U.S. could save $18 billion in power costs by 2030 by integrating grid-interactive efficient buildings, also known as GEBs. In addition, GEBs could lead to a 6% reduction of all power sector carbon dioxide emissions.

Those numbers were quoted by Natalie Mims Frick, program manager at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Berkeley Laboratory. She spoke at the Smart Electric Power Alliance’s Grid Evolution Summit.

She, along with other presenters from utilities shared their findings on the the role that GEBs can play in decarbonizing the grid and reducing energy costs. GEBs use a combination of energy efficient devices, appliance electrification, total building efficiency, and smart technology-enabled building systems to reduce energy use, especially during peak demand hours.

Lisa Reed, energy programs manager at Colorado-based Holy Cross Energy spoke about the cooperative’s market-based approaches that incentivize smart energy use in buildings. In one program, Holy Cross sends automatic emails to customers, offering a paid incentive in exchange for reduced energy use. Depending on the scale of the demand spike, the incentive pays between $0.50-$1.00 per kWh.

The cooperative also instituted a program called GreenUp, in which customers are encouraged to increase their electricity usage during peak renewable energy production. During those periods customers are encouraged to charge devices and run high energy-demand appliances and other energy-intensive operations. In turn, energy is sold at a discounted rate.

The presenters said that such incentive programs are in their early stages. Smart thermostats, peak demand controllers, smart energy storage, insulation, and other home energy efficiency upgrades were offered as vital parts of a healthy GEB offering. They said that although the financial benefit of each individual device and incentive program may be small, the overall net effect can be tangible and of mutual benefit to building owners and power providers.

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