Connecting building energy systems to the smart grid

Volume 19, Number 1

Building owners and operators have identified a need for new technologies to allow them to fully realize the benefits of smart meter data and monitoring systems. At the same time, they require effective demand-response systems in order to move towards reducing energy costs associated with the operation of their buildings.

Many building owners who generate power from their buildings through photovoltaic arrays and combined heat and power units, are requesting solutions for the best economic use of this power. This may include using it immediately, storing it for later use, or selling it to the grid, depending on the dynamic price of electricity.

As part of its new High Performance Buildings program, NRC is collaborating with industry leaders to develop an array of technologies and services tailored to help them meet owners’ needs. The resulting technologies will enable building owners to profit from underutilized data collected by building systems and to continuously assess, predict, adjust and control the performance of building energy systems automatically.

Firms can then offer owners building energy systems that can maintain effective interaction with the smart grid, exploit dynamic pricing and sales scenarios, and achieve continuous demand response through automated load shifting and dynamic whole-building energy cost reduction. These energy-efficient, demand-responsive buildings will also support electrical utilities in an effort to avoid costly failures and blackouts.

This industry-led research will focus on the following priorities:

  • Remote auditing and building benchmarking: NRC will assist utilities and large building portfolio owners in creating and customizing benchmarking tools for specific building types and sectors. This will be done by merging energy data with rich geographical data as a way to more accurately determine underperforming buildings, and to suggest possible retrofit options. Benchmarking also provides a basis for establishing sound energy management practices and strategies.
  • Retrofit return on investment tool: Researchers will collaborate with Canada’s energy utility and engineering sectors to develop a software tool. This tool can be used to quickly and accurately assess the feasibility of undertaking energy retrofits of a building or portfolio of buildings. It will quantify the risks and return on investment.
  • Fault detection in building management systems (BMS): In this work, NRC will help building energy management companies to develop information technology tools based on BMS and other data. Such tools will enable these companies to offer new services to owners for identifying inefficient buildings and systems and pinpointing the causes, including hardware and sensor failure. When equipped with a failure prediction algorithm, these tools become a powerful aid for scheduling preventative maintenance.
  • Whole-building energy management with smart grid interface: Results from this work will enable building controls companies to advance the technology needed to perfect a smart whole-building energy management system. This type of system will be an effective interface between the smart grid and building services such as lighting, HVAC and energy storage. Once achieved, the system will enable building operators to automatically select the least costly operating condition and further save money by effective participation in electrical utility demand-response programs.
  • Building-level electrochemical storage: Because of the dynamic nature of utility energy prices and the variable output from renewable energy sources, storage technologies are required to minimize building energy costs while maintaining building functionality. Working with industry collaborators, NRC will perform techno-economic assessments to confirm the type and capacity of electrochemical storage (batteries, fuel cells), as well as to validate the return on investment.

NRC is seeking industry leaders who want to make a substantial reduction in the amount of energy used by Canada’s commercial and institutional buildings, and who want to create new business opportunities for Canadian companies in the growing energy retrofit market.


Dino Zuppa
Telephone: 613-949-0073