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⚡ "Smart Buildings & Load Flexibility"

Renewable Energy SmartPod

Photo by Nerses Khachatryan / Unsplash

Host: Sean McMahon
Guest: John Powers | Founder & CEO | Extensible Energy
Category: ⚡ Renewable Energy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[2:57] “We view [load flexibility] as a platform for value for the customer and value for the grid. So we're really excited, of course, to see the adoption of solar and wind as the primary sources of new energy on the grid. But as the generation side of the grid becomes less dispatchable, the load side of the grid has to become more flexible. So load flexibility can provide demand charge management for customers, time of use arbitrage for customers, but it can also provide services to the grid that are necessary to accommodate a greater amount of non dispatchable renewables on the grid. So that could be in the form of demand response, that could be in the form of participation in real time load flexibility, markets and everything in between.”

[3:57] “Renewables are the driving force for greater value from load flexibility. So of course, we all think of energy storage as being a key enabler of more wind and solar on the grid, and it truly is. But in addition to that, there's storage available in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings or customer side resources that are much cheaper than expensive, new, fixed battery storage. And being able to tap into that storage for example, the natural flexibility of when electric vehicles charge or the natural flexibility of the thermal mass of buildings, any of that is cheaper than buying new batteries just for the grid.”

[5:00] “[CalFlexHub] is a great, great project that the US Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission are funding with Lawrence Berkeley Lab (LBL) as the prime, and we're a small part of the project as well, to pioneer price signals that enable customers to benefit from load flexibility. So it's great to have information on prices flowing from the wholesale market to the retail market, all the way down to the end customer. And demonstrating that customers really can provide load flexibility back to the grid in response to price signals. So the CalFlexHub project is certainly an R&D project in that it's developing some of the technology for those price signals. But it's really a demonstration project to get that technology pushed all the way down to real buildings in the real world and demonstrate the value to the end customers. So that's our piece of it as we specialize in small to medium commercial buildings. And we'll be controlling those buildings in response to the price signals generated through LBL and its other subcontractors.”

[6:26] “The technologies we're working on are all about control of flexible loads in commercial buildings. That could be batteries and that could be car chargers behind the meter, but in most buildings that's heating and cooling. That's the largest flexible load in almost all commercial buildings. So we have our DemandEx software, which controls the flexible loads, in almost any kind of commercial building, office, retail, church, school, conditioned warehouse, municipal building, any place where there are large, flexible loads behind the meter. Our gateway talks many different languages to all the different types of loads in buildings. Most common is to thermostats or to existing building energy management systems. None of those systems are built to respond to grid signals, particularly today. So our piece is to be able to tell the loads in the building, when to use more energy.”

[7:33] “We always used to talk about energy efficiency. And energy efficiency is mostly about hardware. But load flexibility is about software. Because when you use electricity is just as important as the total amount of electricity that you use. So we say, it's okay for this part of the building to be a couple degrees cooler right now. It's okay for this part of the building to be a couple degrees warmer right now. Because that is a lot of energy that can be moved from minute to minute and hour to hour, without affecting the comfort or the convenience of the customer or the tenants in the building. So if you can shift load from hour to hour, you can benefit greatly from existing tariffs just through demand charge management, but certainly even more greatly from the opening of load flexibility markets, similar to those being explored with the CalFlexHub Project.”

[8:41] “The CalFlexHub anticipates all of the other state and national goals for increasing the percentage of renewables on the grid, and is working to quickly help the load side catch up with that. So the solar is coming, the wind is coming and the CalFlexHub Project is designed to help the load side catch up with what's happening on the supply side. Supply is getting cleaner, and more renewable and more distributed all the time. We're already curtailing a lot of the output of renewable resources today in California, because there's no demand for it at certain minutes or hours during the day. So being able to match the load with the generation is a key piece of what the CalFlexHub project is all about.”

[17:41] “The feedback has been great. […] It isn't all just about cost. We've had customers tell us that there's basically four Cs in a building. There's comfort, control, costs, and carbon. […] And we have customers who react to each of those components to a greater or lesser extent.”

[20:36] “Energy usage is a big input to any of the carbon footprint tracking that customers are doing. ESG is a much bigger topic than we cover in our software. We're focused on the energy component to that. But it's a key input and it's something that can be tracked and measured, minute by minute, hour by hour. We have a partnership with […] RMI, and they track the carbon intensity of generation at a very fine grained level across all the different wholesale markets in the United States. So we work with them to track the carbon intensity of usage in each of our buildings, and report on that and help our customers meet their ESG goals.”

[22:56] “The software pays for itself anywhere today, where demand charges are above maybe $8 to $10 per kW. That's about two thirds of the country. So we're getting a lot of interest here in California, we get a lot of interest in Colorado, because we've got a great partner out there who's done quite a bit of business with us. We have interest, though, from really, I'd say at least half the states and two thirds of the population of the country.”

[27:35] “I think the smart building world and the smart grid world are kind of coming together. And while some of this technology has been available for a while in sort of big, rich buildings, think back to when cell phones were only available to rich people with their car phones, and how things changed as we all got smartphones in our pockets. I think you're gonna see things that were only available to the biggest richest buildings become way more democratized and distributed to every small to medium building on the grid. I think that's going to really expand the number of applications […] that are available to everyone on the grid from the perspective of energy savings, demand charge savings, but also direct participation and load flexibility markets […]. So I think the change is going to be pretty quick and pretty extreme compared to the cell phone transition. And I think it's going to really help the customers save money and the grid to clean up and electrify everything.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 30 min | 🗓️ 12/07/2021
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