News & Insights  |  Newsletters

DOE Requests Comment on Grid-Connected Buildings’ End-Use Equipment and Appliances

August 2014

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) continues to move forward with planning regarding grid-connected buildings' end-use equipment and appliances.  This DOE activity is in furtherance of a broad national policy to support modernization of the nation's electricity grid.

Comments on Framework Document.  DOE is soliciting comment on issues relating to a Framework Document regarding the physical characteristics of such equipment and appliances.  79 Fed. Reg. 47633 (Aug. 14, 2014).  This opportunity for comment follows up on DOE public meetings on April 30 and July 11, 2014.  The notice provides an opportunity for industry to weigh in on the issues—the answers to which will likely impact them.  DOE will accept written comments until September 29, 2014.

The Framework Document covers the scope, terminology, and definitions of connected equipment, the details of the characterization protocol framework, and the process for developing the characterization protocols.  DOE says that it plans to work with and convene industry and other stakeholders to develop characterization protocols that are uniformly developed, and do not place undue burden on industry, to measure the responses that connected equipment can provide.

DOE Goals.  DOE says that the main goals of developing the framework are the following:

  • Promote innovation among the industry players.
  • Help establish a scalable market for connected equipment through developing data and information to inform consumers/building owners, manufacturers, and electric and gas utilities.
  • Protect consumer value through quality of service and amenities provided by the equipment and minimize cost of life-cycle operation.
  • Protect manufacturers by avoiding damage to equipment, violation of warranty, and consumer dissatisfaction.
  • Inform utilities and service providers of the end-user, societal, grid, and energy market services that the connected equipment can deliver, as well as create an opportunity for new services and value streams for the different stakeholders in the future.

Definition of Relevant Terms.  A key issue in relation to the Framework Document is defining of relevant terms.  The term “equipment” in the context of the Framework Document means building end-use loads that consume, store, or generate electricity while providing necessary services and amenities within buildings.  Examples include refrigerators, computers, lighting, HVAC, heat pumps, room air conditioners, vehicle chargers, inverters, and energy storage “to name a few.”

Other important terms include “connected” (the capability of equipment to receive and transmit signals); “service” (energy or power related functions that benefit consumers, building owners, third-party providers, or utilities); “response” (physical or informational actions taken by equipment in reaction to external signals or internally generated information); and “characterization” (measurement and evaluation of physical or informational responses that are possible for connected equipment).

DOE's request for comments includes whether such terms should be better defined; whether  additional terms should be defined; and whether there should be a step to determine eligibility for characterization as connected equipment.  Other issues include, for example, what responses should be characterized for connected equipment; what metrics should be computed for physical, informational, or other responses; and whether there are other aspects of the characterization execution that should be considered for connected equipment.

Complementary Activities.  DOE says that it is aware of several activities ongoing within the industry related to connected appliances and equipment and is performing due diligence to understand complementary activities underway by stakeholders—such as the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM); Air-Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI); ASHRAE; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and many other professional societies and trade associations.  For example, the Smart Grid Task Force of AHAM has worked with ENERGY STAR on specifications for smart appliances and has developed a standard titled “Common Information Necessary for Intelligent Appliances.”  DOE says that it is performing due diligence to understand ongoing complementary activities underway by stakeholders.

National Policy on the Electricity Grid.  DOE's efforts are consistent with a national policy adopted by Congress to support the modernization of the nation's electricity grid “to maintain a reliable and secure electricity infrastructure that can meet future demand growth” and to achieve a series of goals, “which together characterize a Smart Grid.”  42 U.S.C. §17381. Congress set forth 10 objectives toward this end:

  • Increased use of digital information and controls technology to improve reliability, security, and efficiency of the electric grid.
  • Dynamic optimization of grid operations and resources, with full cyber-security.
  • Deployment and integration of distributed resources and generation, including renewable resources.
  • Development and incorporation of demand response, demand-side resources, and energy-efficiency resources.
  • Deployment of “smart” technologies (real-time, automated, interactive technologies that optimize the physical operation of appliances and consumer devices) for metering, communications concerning grid operations and status, and distribution automation.
  • Integration of “smart” appliances and consumer devices.
  • Deployment and integration of advanced electricity storage and peak-shaving technologies, including plug-in electric and hybrid electric vehicles, and thermal-storage air?conditioning.
  • Provision to consumers of timely information and control options.
  • Development of standards for communication and interoperability of appliances and equipment connected to the electric grid, including the infrastructure serving the grid.
  • Identification and lowering of unreasonable or unnecessary barriers to adoption of smart grid technologies, practices, and services.