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DOE Seeks Input on “Smart” and Grid-Connected Buildings Equipment and Appliances

April 2014

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is soliciting comment on issues related to the physical characterization of “smart” and grid-connected commercial and residential buildings end-use equipment and appliances.  79 Fed. Reg. 19322 (April 8, 2014).  DOE will hold a public meeting on April 30, 2014, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.  It will accept written comments until May 23, 2014.  This DOE activity is in furtherance of a broad national policy to support development of a smart electricity transmission and distribution system.

The meeting and comment period provides an opportunity for industry to help shape DOE's positions on important issues.  These include processes and metrics for measurement, identification of grid and building services that can be provided, and identification of values and benefits of grid connectivity.  The agenda is expected to include the following:

  • Examples of physical characterization of smart and grid-connected buildings equipment;
  • Potential national value and benefits, and stakeholder value propositions, of smart and grid-connected buildings equipment;
  • Candidate metrics to characterize smart and grid-connected buildings equipment;
  • Potential frameworks for the characterization process;
  • Other topics related to smart and grid-connected equipment that DOE should consider;
  • Public input on key stakeholders DOE should engage; and
  • Public input to identify reports, analyses, and case studies of which DOE should be aware.

DOE staff indicates that the meeting's focus is going to be “big load” fixed assets in buildings, including air-conditioners, heating, refrigerators, and washers, that can benefit from, e.g., adjusting duty cycles to obtain lower rates. 

The DOE proceeding is a further step in the agency's efforts to address the integration and optimization of buildings with the energy grid.  DOE held a technical meeting in December 2012, hosted by NERL, on buildings-to-grid opportunities.

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 each of the following, 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.