Utilities and Green Buildings

Teresa Hansen  

I often use this last letter of the year to voice my predictions about the industry in the coming year, but this year, I want to discuss an addition to POWERGRID International’s editorial coverage. Energy efficiency technologies for commercial and industrial (C&I) facilities will be added to the editorial lineup in 2013.

A few weeks ago, I attended Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in San Francisco. According to event organizers, it is the world’s largest conference and exposition dedicated to green building. Technologies covered and showcased at the event include building materials made from reclaimed and recycled products, the world’s most efficient HVAC systems and the latest in industrial, commercial and residential lighting.

Why would an editor of an electricity distribution magazine be interested in a conference on green buildings? The answer is that reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions was a major theme at the event. In the opening plenary, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and former U.S. representative Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.) and his “Morning Joe” co-host and best-selling author Mika Brzezinski discussed energy consumption and climate change at length. Scarborough said green buildings are the No. 1 way to reduce energy consumption and curb carbon emissions. Exuberant applause from the audience indicated they agreed.

Nearly 900 companies exhibited at this year’s Greenbuild event, and more than half displayed products aimed at managing and decreasing energy use and even generating electricity. Facility energy monitoring and management technology is not new, but connecting a utility’s power delivery grid directly to a building’s energy management system is relatively new and not widely done. It is, however, being discussed more and more. A section of this year’s Greenbuild exhibit floor was dedicated to smart grids. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) exhibited in the smart grid pavilion.

Building designers, constructors and managers are serious about creating smart buildings that can communicate with electricity grids. This means electricity providers need to get serious about it, too. They have an opportunity to work with some of their largest electricity consumers and the companies that serve them to develop technology that will benefit electricity users and providers. PG&E’s and SCE’s presence at Greenbuild show that some utilities understand their involvement is necessary.

The integration of C&I facilities with electricity grids is in the early stages, but there are opportunities and challenges, such as standards development, that can be addressed now. In 2013, POWERGRID International’s editorial staff will begin sorting through the issues and providing you with relevant content to help you sort through the issues.

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