In August, the first in-person ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings (aka “Summer Camp for Energy Nerds” – around 1,000 of them) was held in Pacific Grove, California. Buildings Alive was privileged to present 3 papers (authored by Craig Roussac and Hao Huang) to academics, utility representatives, consultants and others from across the USA and beyond. There was noticeable excitement in the air with the conference being held just days after the historic “Inflation Reduction Act” was passed by congress, promising nearly $370 billion for climate action in the USA.

So what did we present and what did we hear? While there were 13 panels on various topics, the overall themes were “Climate Solutions: Efficiency, Equity, and Decarbonization”. There was much discussion about on-demand flexibility as a response to changing levels of renewable energy available on electricity grids. Indeed, Southern California continued to experience a heat wave during our visit with TV news networks in Los Angeles advising residents to setback air conditioners and not to charge their electric cars in the evening. Apart from being altruistic, there is currently little incentive for consumers to respond to these sorts of warnings – although this is changing as we heard at the conference. Numerous utilities across America are expanding programs which encourage the use of electricity during times of high renewable energy penetration and limit energy use at times of high fossil fuel use. These programs are largely still focused on dealing with peak demand (the infamous ‘duck curve’), but there is recognition that with increasing renewables, these demand shifts need to become automated and common.

Buildings Alive Papers

Buildings Alive presented 2 papers on “Panel 12: Smart and Grid-Interactive Buildings”.

Retargeting Demand Response for Carbon Positive Flexible Buildings” presented by Craig was a dive into the world of near real-time grid carbon intensity calculation and how that can be combined with forecasting of the grid and building energy/carbon/price profiles to transition from managing kilowatt-hours to managing carbon. The example in the figure below shows the impact load shifting can have, with a shift in load from a period of high carbon intensity to low carbon intensity having a significant impact on full day GHG savings when calculated at the interval level.

Ratio of average GHG intensity level between morning and afternoon Peak demand reduction (kW) Full-day GHG saving based on 15-min interval grid GHG emissions intensity (%) Costs savings based on wholesale electricity price (%)
1:2 201 5.30% 9%

Also in Panel 12, “Unsupervised Learning for Detecting VAV Anomalies in Commercial Buildings: A Case Study” presented by Brad, discussed the extension of Buildings Alive’s machine-learning driven analytics approach to the VAV level and how it can play a huge role in maximizing the effectiveness of technicians time on site by focusing on the issues causing the biggest operational issues in the building.

Meanwhile, in “Panel 3 – Commercial Buildings: Technologies, Design, Operations, and Industry Trends” Craig went deeper into real-time carbon management with “Automated Anomaly Detection and Diagnosis for Real-Time Carbon Minimization”. Instead of looking for and managing anomalies causing the biggest energy impacts, we need to move towards anomalies which are the source of the biggest carbon impacts and prioritize the minimization of those.

Finally – we’d like to acknowledge all of the great work being done in the “Energy Efficiency and Equity” space (Panel 13). The impacts of climate change are not the same for everyone. A huge focus is needed to develop resilient and sustainable energy systems that provide access to comfortable/healthy indoor environments and affordable energy for all.

The proceedings from the Summer Study are available here on the ACEEE website. Take a look!


Craig Roussac, CEO presenting at ACEEE Summer Study