BUSINESS PROBLEM currently commercial and industrial customers are largely in the dark regarding the potential for reducing energy consumption. C&I customers have little information of how malfunctioning or improperly configured equipment can impact energy usage and demand charges. Nor do they have sufficient expertise in optimizing distributed generation and the sale of electricity into the grid. They make investments in energy efficiency, but never know the degree to which those savings are being realized. Through the PUCs, utilities provide energy efficiency rebates to the C&I customers, but both parties have difficulty proving that these investments actually resulted in load reduction. Therefore there is little innovative use of energy efficiency dollars since utilities tend to leverage tried and true energy efficiency projects that are acceptable to the PUC. This makes it difficult for start-up companies with innovative energy management technologies to gain traction in the market.
In addition, existing demand response capabilities are largely based on reducing usage during ISO designated “critical events”. DR vendors have historically managed load through manual rather than automated means and have not participated in the real time ancillary services market which is dominated by generators.
The bottom line is that there is significant opportunity to improve the management of demand and supply conditions in the grid, but the drivers to get there are limited.
Energy management in the future will involve the connectivity of load using equipment and load supplying equipment with cloud-based applications that monitor and control facility demand and supply conditions on a real time basis. Connectivity will be open and support multiple communication protocols and transmission technologies. These cloud-based applications will enable the virtual aggregation and control of load in a defined segment of network such that load profiles can be maintained dynamically, demand and supply conditions managed real time and load conditions forecasted by the next minute, hour or day. As this capability becomes pervasive in any given network segment, electricity peaks and troughs can be minimized as demand can be curtailed instantaneously by smart applications that manage a network of distributed energy resources, storage and load using devices. What will emerge are energy managers that provide monitoring, asset management and demand management services to customers and to utilities.