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Unlocking a GEBs Future: Accelerating Coordinated Utility Programs

Coordinated energy efficiency, demand flexibility, and demand response programs and grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEBs) are critical to achieve a modern, carbon-free energy system

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the potential to save up to $18 billion in power system costs and 80 million tons of carbon emissions annually, a new report and case studies from the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) examines the current state of coordinated utility programs that support grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEBs). GEBs are energy efficient buildings that use smart technologies and on-site distributed energy resources (DERs) to provide demand flexibility while continuously co-optimizing for energy cost, grid services, and occupant needs and preferences.

The new study, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, examines how traditional energy efficiency (EE), demand flexibility (DF), and demand response (DR) programs are transitioning to integrate energy conservation and active management of electricity in buildings for the direct or indirect provision of grid services. The report and case studies examine the barriers and potential solutions to this building energy program transition. By gathering insights from utilities, program administrators, technology solution providers, and regulators about energy program business models and regulatory frameworks, the study aims to support all stakeholders looking to unlock a GEBs future.

“Unlocking a successful GEBs future requires that we overcome current barriers that limit the ability to develop and deploy coordinated utility EE, DF and DR programs,” said Kate Strickland, manager, regulatory and business innovation at the Smart Electric Power Alliance. “By identifying current practitioner challenges paired with on-the-ground solution strategies, this report and case studies offer all stakeholders – including utilities, program administrators, technology solution providers, and regulators – tools and resources to unlock their own GEBs future.”

To accelerate a GEBs future, utility building energy programs, which often provide incentives and/or technical assistance for building energy upgrades, will need to transition to better integrate conservation and active management of electricity in buildings for the direct or indirect provision of grid services. The study contains eight case studies covering examples of key challenges and successful strategies for coordinated EE+DF(+DR) programs.

Other key findings about coordinated EE+DF(+DR) programs include:

  • Utility organizational and regulatory procedural silos are limiting the ability to develop and deploy programs and maximize DF and grid services.
  • Supportive regulatory innovation and collaboration frameworks, such as a more flexible regulatory framework for pilot programs or strategies to enhance collaborative work across multiple entities, can enable program development and flexibility.
  • Alternative regulatory models can encourage program development, planning, and deployment, though cost-effectiveness and evolving metrics for program design and evaluation remain challenging.
  • Customer recruitment and retention is often more challenging and complex than for traditional programs, and ensuring equitable participation requires additional considerations.
  • Broader system-level barriers such as inadequate standards and protocols, and cybersecurity concerns, are also limiting program development.

“Achieving the DOE’s goal to triple the energy efficiency and demand flexibility of residential and commercial buildings by 2030 will require advancing grid-interactive efficient buildings and coordinated utility program development,” said Peter Cappers, staff scientist in the Electricity Markets and Policy Department at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “SEPA’s findings complement the GEB roadmap and will be helpful in expanding the DOE’s network of GEB connected communities nationwide.”

“With climate and resilience imperatives accelerating electrification, renewables, and DERs, there is an urgent need to orchestrate resources on both sides of the meter, including energy efficiency and flexible demand,” said Rodney Sobin, senior fellow at NASEO. “SEPA’s analysis and case studies will be an invaluable resource for our NASEO-NARUC GEB Working Group and states generally as they strive for a clean, reliable, and affordable electricity system.”

The report and case studies, Accelerating Coordinated Utility Programs for Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings, are available to the public.

Additionally, SEPA is hosting a series of three public webinars entitled Unlocking a GEBs Future: Accelerating Coordinated Utility Programs — A Practitioners’ Perspectives Webinar Series

Join the July 28th launch webinar to hear from diverse practitioner perspectives – including the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, Green Mountain Power, and National Grid.

Join the August 17th webinar to hear from diverse utility practitioner perspectives – including Holy Cross Energy, Portland General Electric, and SMUD.

Join the September 14th webinar to hear from diverse regulatory and policy practitioner perspectives – including Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission and Colorado Energy Office.

Media contact: Jordan Nachbar [email protected]; 202-559-2034