Bringing the Smart Grid into Homes
Appliance makers are already creating better, smarter products. It’s now time to connect them through the IoT and to the energy environment.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, demand response provides an opportunity for consumers to play a significant role in the operation of the electric grid by reducing or shifting their electricity usage during peak periods in response to time-based rates or other forms of financial incentives. Looking back over the last two decades, DR was mostly used for this specific purpose—to avoid running out of energy when supply was low or usage was too high. Initially this was done using simple communication like phone calls, fax messages, emails, and other means. Each time a building manager or owner needed to be involved to initiate the energy reduction measures previously determined. Over the course of the last 10-plus years this communication path was increasingly automated and became an M2M (machine-to-machine) information system. The latest DR enabled controllers now receive messages from the grid operator and exercise pre-defined automation processes to curtail energy.
In recent years, demand side resources management has further evolved to include Distributed Energy Resources (DER) like residential or commercial PV solar system, wind energy, battery storage, and other energy generation outside the typical power plants. These resources need to be managed properly to support the grid and to balance the energy flow between the entities. M2M communication became even more important as fast signal exchanges are required to effectively connect all these systems.
The most widely adopted and deployed communication standard for this interaction is OpenADR. A variety of different signal types can be exchanged between the server at the operator level and the client system at the resource end. Most commonly, price and energy consumption information elements are being communicated.
In the past, it made sense to connect only larger consumers like factories or large commercial building to DR systems due to the lack of standards. As communication became standardized, easier, and cheaper, more and more small-medium businesses and residential buildings were incorporated in DR programs including: HVAC, pool pumps, and other energy intense systems. However in the context of a more connected world, any appliance that can support energy flexibility can be tied into this effort.
History of OpenADR
The California energy crisis of 2002 served as the impetus for the effort that ultimately led to the creation of version 1.0 of the OpenADR standard. The Demand Response Research Center (DRRC), which is operated by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), created the standard with funding from the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program. Shortly after 2002, the DRRC worked with the California Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs), Southern California Edison (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to jointly develop this technology through pilots and actual program implementations.
In 2009, OpenADR was included in the Smart Grid Interoperability Standards Framework, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) identified OpenADR as a key standard for Demand Response. Additional standards work was performed by the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP), which is being tasked by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to oversee standardization of the Smart Grid. The North American Energy Standards Board contributed to the effort by developing a set of requirements.
The work to create version 2.0 of the OpenADR standard was performed by OASIS through its Energy Interoperation Technical Committee with assistance from the Utilities Communication Architecture International User Group’s (UCAIug) OpenADR Taskforce. The OpenADR Alliance then took over and created the now common OpenADR 2.0a and 2.0b Profile Specifications with the accompanying certification programs. The mission of the OpenADR Alliance is to foster the development, adoption, and compliance of the Open Automated Demand Response (OpenADR) standards through collaboration, education, training, testing and certification.
Once work was completed on OpenADR 2.0, the standard was submitted to the International Electrotechnical Commission in Europe for adoption worldwide. IEC is the world’s leading organization for international standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies. OpenADR 2.0b is now available as IEC/PAS 62746-10-1.
The Internet of Things
Internet of Things (IoT) may mean different things to different audiences. This said, and at a minimum, IoT refers to things (devices) that in one way, shape, or form communicate with other things over some type of network. By extension, human beings may communicate with things over the same or different networks.
In the realm of homes and buildings, and with the ever-increasing number of off-the-shelf connected and communicating devices, IoT is becoming ubiquitous: it’s no longer out of the ordinary to see devices being commanded, controlled and monitored through the internet. Of course, it goes without saying that it’s extremely cool to be able to command/control devices through the Internet and—if interoperability permits—automate a few tasks. But, is being “cool” the extent of what IoT has to offer to home/building occupants? Or, can IoT be extended to actually bring tangible benefits—such as energy conservation/savings?
Internet of Energy Things (ET)
As mentioned before, two major components of IoT are network and things! There’s a third and implicit component, which is usually overlooked: energy! At a very high level, things either consume or, to a lesser extent, produce energy.
This is simply brilliant since for any energy conservation and management endeavor, we need things that communicate and respond to the states of energy consumption and production either in a semi-global context—such as utilities—or more granular context such as Distributed Energy Resources (DER). However, without a common language and framework that enables things to understand each other it is not conducive to interoperability and mass adoption. And this is precisely where OpenADR comes in: it provides things with a common language and framework to send and respond to commands, provide status feedback to each other, participate in DER, or—in the near future—even execute energy based transactions (transactive energy).
OpenADR is a mature internet based standard, with 100-plus certified products, and already in production in many states in the U.S. and countries around the world. In the near future, it’s simply natural to expect to see things having an embedded OpenADR layer, which provides energy savings/conversation in addition to other features.
The easiest installation would use OpenADR for simple communications of prices and load on the grid between the utilities, things, and occupants. For instance—and given user preferences—things may behave differently based on different prices for energy (real time pricing) or load on the grid.
Measurement and Verification
In many cases—and in order to disburse accurate rebates/incentives—utilities have to expend exorbitant amount of resources to measure and verify the actual energy savings. As such, most rebates/incentives are given to larger entities with larger loads. Things having an embedded OpenADR layer—and with user permission—can automatically report their energy status/usage and thus be eligible for rebates and incentives.
Distributed Energy Resources (DER) and Transactive Energy
With the abundance of solar panels, energy storage devices, and other localized things that produce energy, an OpenADR layer enables these things to intelligently produce, consume, and distribute energy amongst themselves. Transactive energy is the ability for things to execute energy transactions in real time. As a complement to DER, energy transactions may also include financial components such as subscriptions. OpenADR is at the forefront of standardizing the transactive energy framework and, thus, enabling things to intelligently and collectively decide on the best approach for energy conservation/savings.
In Summary: What’s important for appliance makers?
Appliance makers are already creating better, smarter, and more economical products. It is now time to connect them through the IoT and to the energy environment. Using standards is the only viable solution to keep prices in check and to prepare for most scenarios.