Smart home automation is the key to demanding flexibility

The topic of home automation has grown over the past decade, with consumers embracing technologies ranging from smart speakers to doorbell cameras and smart thermostats. For the most part, home automation has relied on devices connected to the Internet but not necessarily to each other, and automation to reduce demand has generally been based on very basic fixed inputs such as time of day. day or occupation.

At the same time, utilities are grappling with an ever-increasing supply of renewable energy sources, which has been a net positive for carbon reduction, but poses engineering and pricing challenges due to intermittent supply. .

Network operators and utilities have tended to focus on demand response as a demand side solution for these challenges. In the residential sector, demand response has relied disproportionately on thermostat control during times of peak demand or when outages become a real possibility. These programs have delivered on their promises, but they will not be enough to achieve the bold yet extremely important goals of carbon neutrality and electrical reliability.

As the electrical industry considers how to solve these big challenges, demand flexibility has become a bit of a north star. Rather than event-based reduction, demand flexibility promises continuous automation of demand-side loads to better calibrate them to renewable energy supply.

So why has demand flexibility not been achievable to date and why don’t we see tangible steps to achieve this in most utility resource plans?

On the one hand, the residential sector still lacks large-scale solutions to aggregate all the loads of the house into a single connected and controllable interface. Smart home and IoT standards have failed to connect devices in the home and deliver energy data that could benefit utilities.

Second, utilities have never had the tools to interact with customers in real time, whether it’s dynamic price and carbon impact signals or continuous feedback on energy use or performance. solar production. Due to this discrepancy, customer engagement has remained low.

And third, network operators and utilities still lack confidence in planning loads that they cannot directly control, which has limited their inclusion in resource plans and program portfolios.

But things are changing as recent innovations in home energy monitoring and consumer-driven automation shift the paradigm of demand flexibility. Sense is at the forefront of the current generation of smart home automation by providing a bird’s-eye view of the home that simultaneously identifies and tracks multiple loads.

Consider the impact of a view on the whole house. As consumers embrace rooftop solar power in states like California, being able to simultaneously track their home energy use and solar power output in a smart home app can make them powerful allies. to achieve the climate change targets mandated by regulators. Once customers have real-time personal information about their home’s energy, they know why and when to shift variable loads to high solar times or outside of peak demand periods. Rather than simply controlling customer thermostats, utilities can identify large residential loads, communicate with customers about them, and incentivize a wider range of customer behaviors, introducing much more flexibility into residential demand.

The flexibility of demand can also have implications for service offerings. Today, customers have to sort through complicated price tables based on time of use and adapt their daily behavior to minimize their bills. Smart home automation can simplify customer choices while flexibly meeting various goals, including profitability and reducing carbon emissions.

In a recent study, Sense set out to find out how automation could affect the charging patterns of electric vehicles. In a simulation, EV drivers could choose to minimize costs or carbon impact while charging their cars over a 12 to 24 hour period. Using carbon intensity data from domestic energy data from Singularity Energy and Sense, the simulation automatically timed the load at periods of low carbon intensity from the grid, which continuously varies and differs among local authorities. control.

The study found that automating electric vehicle charging to optimize carbon intensity has a carbon reduction potential of 8-14% nationwide, and up to a 43% reduction in California. In fact, this automated approach has produced lower carbon impacts than pricing based on usage rates alone.

By automating electric vehicle charging in a smart home application, utilities can take advantage of instantaneous, real-time variations in grid power supply to extract greater grid-scale carbon savings with a minimal customer effort. The use of a simple real-time interface associated with automation makes it possible to recharge when the energy of the network is mainly renewable.

These innovations also mean that instead of customers having to navigate a landscape of individual device and event orders, complicated pricing or websites with monthly or daily total usage information, a wider range Choices can be introduced, automated and called as utility goals and network conditions change. Results-based choices are easier for customers and put them in the driver’s seat. They strike a balance between control of utilities and too much complexity for customers to manage.

When whole-home smart home energy monitoring is paired with automation, utilities can optimize costs, reduce carbon emissions, and solve grid constraints. These capacities can even be directly integrated into the investments of the meters. For example, Landis + Gyr’s Revelo metering platform incorporates Sense technology for real-time energy monitoring of the whole house. In addition to the Sense app, Revelo is designed to run other third-party apps, making it a platform for multiple ways to interact with customers, flexibly meeting utility goals.

Residential customers today face significant change and complexity when thinking about and managing their home’s energy resources. They expect their utility to understand their unique needs and apply that understanding to communicate with and support them. As a result, utilities can no longer afford to be blind to what is going on behind the meter. Utilities need a real-time, holistic view of the home to both serve these customers reliably and to be seen as a trusted partner in guiding them to the best choices for an economic and sustainable future. With real-time personal information, utilities and their customers can successfully transition to a more flexible and distributed network

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