As electricity demand continues to increase, integrating buildings and the electricity grid is a key step to increasing energy efficiency. Intermittent and variable generation sources, such as photovoltaic systems, as well as new load sources, such as electric vehicles, are being installed on the grid in increasing numbers and at more distributed locations. At the same time, smart sensing, metering and control technology is increasing grid operators’ situational awareness, helping building owners pinpoint efficiency opportunities, and allowing home owners to see and adjust their energy use on their smart phones.

The economic opportunities are vast; for example, transforming demand responsive devices to be fully dispatchable could provide billions of dollars per year in reduced energy costs while offsetting new generation and transmission infrastructure. However, our current power system does not exchange the necessary energy data between assets, leading to substantial efficiency savings left untapped.

Introduction and Vision

BTO developed a paper more fully articulating a vision for residential and commercial buildings in realizing buildings-to-grid integration at scale.
Introduction and Vision Technical Opportunity Paper

To fully enable buildings to act as shock absorbers for the grid that also provide new services to their owners, a new, “transactive” approach to energy is required that will allow the millions of sensors, meters, smart appliances, loads and distributed generation to seamlessly communicate and coordinate. The term "transactive" comes from considering that decisions are made based on a value. The value is allocated and can be based on a non-energy criteria expressed as price (i.e. “green-ness” of the power, asset valuation, comfort, etc.).

The Building Technologies Office (BTO), which is part of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, aims to incubate both transactive energy and transaction-based controls within its research portfolio and thereby reduce some of the market-limiting complexities that currently exist.

The opportunities of a fully integrated buildings-grid ecosystem include:

  • Turning buildings into already deployed, low-cost storage options for the grid, ready to balance both peaks and valleys of demand in a seamless, automated fashion.
  • Empowering building owners, operators and tenants with access to currently inaccessible energy markets, opening up new cash flow opportunities from energy savings and trades, efficiency gains, and in-depth understanding of energy use.
  • Support the opening of new markets to new participants, leading to economic development, new American jobs, and homegrown technological leadership that will define our global competitiveness and energy independence.