Distributed Energy Resources

Report examines residential buildings as grid assets

A new report highlights the potential of using residential grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEBs) to create a more reliable, affordable, and cleaner power grid and provides recommendations for policy makers that could help facilitate the wider adoption of GEB technologies.

The report, Residential Grid-Interactive Efficient Building Technology and Policy: Harnessing the Power of Homes for a Clean, Affordable, was written for National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) by the AnnDyl Policy Group with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Buildings Technology Office through the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The authors note that, in the past, energy efficiency programs were largely focused on the commercial and industrial sector, which is easier to target. The residential sector, however, is a “largely untapped resource for both efficiency and flexibility,” they say.

Citing Department of Energy data, the report notes that residential buildings consume more electricity than any other sector and are the largest contributor to peak demand.

As homeowners add an array of new technologies, such as solar rooftop panels, electric vehicle charging ports, and controllable thermal and battery storage devices, a “huge opportunity” is emerging to make houses grid resources by turning them into grid-interactive efficient buildings that can produce and/or store energy efficiently.

A GEB house incorporate technologies and strategies that include energy efficiency, technologies such as smart thermostats and smart appliances capable of two-way communication between the house and the grid, storage capability whether in batteries, thermal storage or electric vehicles, and distributed generation such as rooftop solar panels.

The report cites several pilot programs, including a year-long (2016-2017) program by the Glasgow Electric Plant Board in Kentucky that installed smart thermostats and controllable battery storage devices in 330 homes that were used to reduce the impact of peak demand charges on customers. The pilot program found that across 67 dispatch events, average demand reduction was 1.48 kW.

Several regulatory and policy barriers do exist, however, to the wider deployment of GEBs, the report says. In particular, the authors note that in many states distributed energy resources are not considered an asset in utility planning. Existing utility incentive structures can also discourage the use residential buildings as grid resources, the author say, noting that with decoupling utility profits are often tied to energy sales which can create a financial disincentive to invest in energy efficiency.

In addition, current planning models may not be able to capture all value streams from residential GEBs, such as grid-interactive water heaters for frequency regulation, the report says.

Among the report’s policy recommendations, the authors urge policy makers to “break down the siloes” between energy, energy efficiency and distributed energy resources, require planning models that include distributed energy resources and appropriately capture their value, and implement rate structures that establish price signals for distributed energy resources.

“In partnership with NARUC, NASEO is developing resources for state policymakers and regulators to explore how GEBs can help them meet broader energy system objectives,” David Terry, executive director of NASEO, said in a statement.

Additional details are available here.