Can highly accurate demand forecasting change the way we manage energy in buildings? Early indications suggest yes! Like Google Traffic, which helps warn and redirect motorists around traffic congestion, energy forecasting can help buildings act to reduce electricity network ‘congestion’, which is what drives 20-30% of a building’s electricity bill and billions of dollars in network investment. To help tackle this challenge, Buildings Alive is now forewarning the operators of buildings of upcoming peak demand events using seven day weather forecasts and predictive algorithms.

There are already several success stories from the coalface, where building operators have taken action in attempt to reduce their buildings’ peak demand and improve occupant comfort. With the Bureau of Meteorology’s hourly weather forecasts and detailed building electricity modelling, Buildings Alive’s peak demand warning messages give clear indications of when capacity limits may be exceeded. Automated summaries after the event help monitor the effects of actions taken.

Here’s one such ‘summary’ message which shows the benefit of a slight precooling to ensure conditions were under control, getting the benefits of lower external temperatures (and therefore higher chiller efficiencies) in the morning. Not only was the ‘expected demand’ beaten, but consumption was significantly lower than maximum capacities set in the previous year.

While it’s still early days for Buildings Alive’s service supporting ‘demand management’ in buildings, large cost savings could be achieved for both building and electricity networks if peaks were more effectively managed. Why? For electricity networks, 15% of the electricity infrastructure (equivalent to $11 billion) across Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) is built to cater for demand only used 3–4 days per year. For electricity retailers, while the price of wholesale electricity hovers around $30–$60/MWh, the price can reach up to its cap of $13,100/MWh during periods of extreme demand For buildings, the highest energy a building demands on the network is charged a ‘capacity charge’ and this generally represents between 20–30% of the buildings’ total annual electricity expenditure.

So yes, we think that with accurate forecasting and immediate feedback to building operators, Buildings Alive can play a role in helping unlock a huge opportunity for cost savings through demand management.