Verge Electrify Event Recap: Smart, Connected Buildings as a Resource

Verge Electrify Event Recap: Smart, Connected Buildings as a Resource

August 5, 2022

Last week, Leap’s Head of Partner Success Christie Dodge joined Mark Danzenbaker, CEO of GridPoint, and David Hughes, Senior Director of Facilities, Energy and Smart Buildings at Walgreens, for a panel at the GreenBiz Verge Electrify conference to discuss the future of smart, grid-interactive buildings. Read on for some highlights from the event →

Smart building technology is essential for a successful electrification strategy

Buildings are already among the largest consumers of energy, and the trend towards electrification will only increase their demand on the grid. Fundamentally, the electrification trend means more demand for electricity - which collides with the need to decarbonize that energy supply. In order to accomplish both, the relationship between producers and consumers of energy needs to become more dynamic.

Smart building technologies can turn this challenge into a solution - and a revenue opportunity. These electrified devices may add to a building’s electricity load, but they are capable of connecting to the grid and responding to signals to reduce or shift their energy demand when the grid is strained. This solution turns buildings into resources for the grid, enabling grid operators to avoid firing up more polluting power plants to meet demand. Building management systems (that control lighting, HVAC, refrigeration, etc.) and other smart energy devices can generate revenue by providing this flexible support to the grid.

Innovations in smart energy management

For businesses like Walgreens, after focusing on energy efficiency initiatives for many years, embracing smart building technologies is the next logical step for stronger, more dynamic onsite energy management. Over the last five to ten years, cloud-connected technologies and the software to manage them has rapidly evolved. These innovations have made facility energy management capabilities much more advanced, and enable businesses to tap into sophisticated insights on building energy usage and opportunities for savings.

We are at a tipping point where the needs of businesses and the needs of the grid are converging. As energy demand increases on the grid and power disruptions become more prevalent, investing in smart energy technologies is moving to the top of the agenda for building energy managers. Previously, large amounts of capital were needed in order to make buildings smarter. Now, the shift towards a service model is making it much easier for building managers to move forward more aggressively without major capital expenditures.

The evolution of demand response capabilities

Demand response as a concept has expanded to include a much broader array of grid services opportunities. Historically, demand response involved large facility managers getting a phone call from grid operators and manually flipping switches to reduce energy usage during times of grid stress. Now, this solution has evolved to become smarter, more automated and more inclusive. There has been an explosion in assets that can participate, and a growing number of ways for buildings to stack value by providing services to the grid.

Given how fast-responding smart technologies have become, they can now offer more advanced services to the grid than just standby power - such as ancillary services, frequency regulation and spinning reserves. Leap matches its partners’ resources to the best grid revenue opportunities to fit their goals and their end-customers’ operational needs.

Preparing for a smarter energy future

Cloud-connected technology makes it easier to take a cohesive look at all the DERs in a building - from lighting, temperature and refrigeration systems, to the energy assets of the future like batteries and electric vehicles. GridPoint’s platform manages all these devices comprehensively, treating each new asset as a resource that can be leveraged for both energy efficiency and for demand reduction. We can think about all of these energy assets in the context of the entire grid and tackle multiple problems at once.

Smart energy technologies are the foundation for successful building electrification. As DERs proliferate, they can take on a more active role to make sure supply and demand remain in balance on the grid. Every building needs to be smart, efficient and interactive in the electrified future. Embracing the full potential of demand-side flexibility in buildings will be crucial for meeting the needs of an “electrified everything.”

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