Alliance to Save Energy Efficiency Policy Summit 2010 - Energy Efficiency Opportunities Across the Smart Grid
The Alliance to Save Energy hosted their annual Policy Summit on Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 in the Russell Senate Office Building where over 200 attendees listened to dialogue concerning current issues in the energy efficiency field and innovative opportunities. The main focus of the summit was smart grid technology. A smart grid is an electricity transmission and distribution grid featuring sensors, data collection and real time two-way communications to move data and electricity from utilities to the consumers. This would allow for energy savings, reduce costs, increase reliability and make electricity as a good more transparent. The summit featured many speakers and presentations. Since the smart grid may not have huge building code applications any issues dealing with buildings will be highlighted.
The first two panels, “Smart Consumers- The Importance of Access to Information,” and the next group, “Nexus of Demand Response and Energy Efficiency - What’s the real Saving Potential?” spoke on the same general concept: how smart grids can make consumers’ monthly bill more transparent than ever before. It was mentioned how efficiency can only be so cost-effective and the next step is to be able to use energy efficient appliances at the most efficient times (when demand on the electric grid is low). The speakers also highlighted that smart grid technology draws the attention of the most important consumers, the ones that do not care about the energy efficiency, since those that do would already buy into and understand the benefits of smart grid technology.
The first code-related material was introduced by former CEC Commissioner Dr. Art Rosenfeld, who gave a short speech on white roofs or cool roofs. He believes that white roofs could be the cheapest and most profitable way to cool the planet if done on an international scale. A white roof radiates and absorbs less heat, unlike a dark roof which contributes to the greenhouse effect. He stated that a white roof can save 10 to 20% on a building’s energy bill, and that they have been required in California’s commercial construction since 2005. In short, he said that if everyone switched to a white roof, it could save 25 billion tons of CO2 and, because we have been using the technology for thousands of years, no technical hurdles are necessary. White roof requirements could be incorporated into building codes, and could be the way force consumers to switch from traditional roofs to cool roofs.
The summit then moved back into the smart grid realm. However, the next topic, “Smart Transportation- Plugging-in to a cleaner, More Secure Future”, had more code implications the more I thought about the topic. The presenters spoke on the usual key points of electric vehicles (EV’s). Specifically, how foreign oil imports have to be cut and how electrification of the transportation market is the only way to expend the fuel supply and wean the market away from oil. They made one key point at the end that they believed the EV plug-in was the killer app for the smart grid. Consumers may not care if they can save a few dollars by washing their clothes at night, but if they can save hundreds of dollars by charging their EV’s at certain times then they would be more likely to buy into smart grid technology. The presenters never spoke on building codes but I thought that they have to be included somewhere if we are to shift to a smart grid with electric cars in place of petroleum. Since fueling stations would become the places you park your car. Homes and business would have to be retrofitted or designed to become fueling stations. This leaves room for codes to be developed to guide the constructions of these future stations. According to the Guardian, San Francisco has adopted building codes requiring all new homes and offices to be wired for electric car chargers, in an attempt to position itself as America's green car capital. It is pretty clear that building codes could become integral for a smooth transition from the internal combustion engine to EV technology. In turn, if the speakers were correct and EV’s are the smart grid’s killer app, then building codes could play a key role in the smart grid’s implementation as well.
The next presentation was on Smart Manufacturing- “Modernization to Marketplace” which I don’t think had much to do with building codes. They discussed supply chain changes and companies that are already starting to move toward smart grid technology. The final portion of the summit one would think might have the most building code implications. The last panel was “Smart Grids and Smart Buildings- can you have one without the other?” The group mostly spoke on the same issues of market and consumer information and power. Such as how green buildings will move past just an architectural issue and move to consumers learning and wanting to save money and energy. They spoke of what a normal day would be like working at in a smart building, which showed many features a smart commercial building could supply and how many of them are close to occurring in today’s buildings. They finished by speaking on the huge market potential of the smart grid, yet also stressing that the current grid is an aging infrastructure and badly in need of updates. There are also a significant amount of inefficient buildings that can be retrofitted. Nowhere did they ever really discuss codes. However, the last speaker, Dr. Dan Arvizu Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, got closer with his talk on the new Research Support Facility being constructed. They designed it to be LEED Platinum but decided that they wanted more energy efficiency so tried to make it 50% more efficient than what LEED Platinum requires. They increased the square footage of their building by 60% and only increased energy use by 6%. The cost to complete the building was cheaper than if they built it to code.
Please click on any of the links in the posting to learn more about the specific issues. I hope this was informative and, even though it was not centered on building codes, helped show how building codes and the smart gird might intertwine. As building codes gain attention and momentum, I am hoping the Alliance to Save Energy includes more building code oriented material next year.