Smart Buildings Equipment Initiative

You are here

Lead Performers:
-- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory – Richland, WA
-- National Renewable Energy Laboratory – Golden, CO
DOE Funding: $2,100,000
Cost Share: N/A
Project Term: Oct. 2014 - Sept. 2015


The purpose of this project is to develop data taxonomies and standard communication protocols that enable building equipment to engage the larger electric system and to develop analytic methods and testing procedures that enable an impartial, technically credible means of assessing the grid-readiness of the next generation of appliances/equipment/controls and the performance/efficiency implications of engaging these devices with the grid.

The technical approach taken will address 1) data/communication/interoperability protocols/standards for device engagement and control as part of a demand management strategy; 2) assessing the compatibility of demand engagement strategies with energy efficiency standards for appliances/equipment; and 3) developing and (selectively) executing test procedures that can be used to evaluate the “demand response compliant” status/maturity of various technologies. There are four specific tasks for the first year of this program.

The national energy savings potential of effective buildings-to-grid integration at large scales, perhaps enabled by transactions-based controls, has not been estimated. The electric power sector uses approximately 40 quads of energy annually, over half of which is fossil-fired, and building loads account for three quarters of that use, or roughly 30 quads. At this large scale, changes in the operation of building loads (for example, commercial lighting configured for transactions-based dimming or variable speed fans responding to price or other signals) could have large aggregate energy demand and energy use savings. Similarly, suboptimal engagement strategies could actually adversely impact energy efficiency and the lifecycle performance of these devices.


Continued load growth, changes in the generating mix, and changes in the nature of end-use loads are driving increased interest in new strategies for engaging building energy assets to provide peak load management, regulation services, and ancillary services to the grid. Such engagement strategies require that major appliances and energy-consuming equipment in buildings have new control capabilities to respond to signals from the wider grid and the ability to communicate their status and ability to respond in real time as part of such new engagement or control programs. Technology is beginning to arrive in the market and a number of “smart grid” programs and organizations have begun efforts to define data taxonomies, interoperability protocols, and related standards, but major gaps remain in these protocols, particularly those that would address complex building control systems, overall equipment lifetime performance, and compatibility with appliance/equipment energy efficiency standards.

These are critical considerations for DOE-EERE/BTO and must be addressed to enable the BTO vision that commercial and residential loads will have the ability to “transact” with the grid, quickly vary their usage with a direct positive impact on the existing electrical system, while also providing benefits (lowered costs and use, lowered carbon/environmental footprint) to building owners at scales large enough to matter. This project will address these key gaps and provide the standard protocols and test procedures that are required to ensure that future energy-consuming equipment are readily integrated into the future modernized grid, but also the future energy-efficient building.


DOE Technology Manager: Marina Sofos
Lead Performer: Andrew Nicholls, Pacific Northwest National Lab; Benjamin Kropowski, National Renewable Energy Laboratory