What happens when the lights go out?

In July we posted a blog about whether the lights will go out in the UK. This blog discussed the startling fact that the peak demand on our electricity supply network is perilously close to the supply capacity. With this comes the real risk that consumers will be exposed to outages “blackouts” and voltage dips “brownouts”. There is debate about whether this could happen, Datamonitor’s director of energy and utilities research and analysis, Neil Atkinson has commented that in practice the lights won’t go out in the UK or at least not for a long time, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be worried or ignore the problem all together. He states that the Government hasn’t put sufficient contingency plans in place for the future of the UK’s supply and demand, that the Green Deal and the dwindling hopes of Nuclear power aren’t enough.

The ECA are less optimistic than Datamonitor. Bill Wright, head of energy solutions, states that the intended increasing reliance on wind power assumes that the UK as a whole will not be affected by periods of cold weather at the same time as minimum wind. This is something that has to be considered though, for if the UK were to suffer a harsh or long winter like we saw in 2012/2013 then there is a real risk that we could end up facing lights out this year or during any winter that is out of the ordinary.

Fuel poverty in England – 10 per cent, 1996 to 2011

Fuel poverty in England – 10 per cent, 1996 to 2011

There is also Ed Milliband’s pledge to freeze energy costs for customers to consider. Will this pledge speed up the process of blackouts and brownouts or it will have no impact at all? The government’s Fuel Poverty Report 2013 suggests there are already 4.8 million households in the UK that are already suffering with blackouts so Ed’s pledge won’t necessarily make any difference.

But what if it does? What will happen if the lights do go out?

BSRIA held a number of parallel workshops in June to discuss that possibility. The workshop covered the effects blackouts would have in the UK, the risks for business, the systems required, the continuity plans and what BSRIA will do. Here are some of the conclusions:

Effects of power outages

There are many potential effects that come with a long power outage. At the moment, most power outages don’t last more than an

An image of Channel 4's The Blackout

An image of Channel 4′s The Blackout

hour so there are minimal risks but the longer the outage, the more opportunity for chaos to ensue. The loss of power could lead to an increase in crime due to diminished security options e.g. alarms and security cameras leading to shops being broken into and civil disorder (a dramatization of the potential damage can be seen in Channel 4’s The Blackout). The country’s communication and transport systems would soon break down and there is a high risk to the economy due to closed businesses and lack of trade. There are few benefits to a power outage; the only redeeming effects being an increase in self-reliance and a chance for the standby power industry to shine.

Risks for business

If power outages have such an impact on society in general, then the risks to business are high as well, even more so due to the current lack of awareness in businesses. If they are unaware of the future problems, then they may well have made no contingency plan to keep their businesses running. Without a contingency plan, they face disruption to their work through either staff shortages (staff may be unable to get into work due to the breakdown of transport), or loss of process and equipment failure. If companies are dependent on computers or other technology, then they risk losing business or missing deadlines, resulting in damage to reputation and loss of profit.

Required systems and contingency plans

To help the UK prepare for the risk of future power outages, the workshop came up with some ideas for required systems and contingency plans that could help reduce the damage caused. Here are some of those. Firstly, education is key and more needs to be done to raise awareness. BSRIA is in a prime position to promote and facilitate this. Starting with the low-hanging fruit, buildings should make maximum use of natural light and ventilation to reduce base energy load. Critical areas or services need to be identified and ring-fenced to maximise the opportunity for them to run when other systems go down. There needs to be a way of controlling the amount of energy used in buildings and this is where energy services and building energy management systems could play a very important role. Incentives, such as variable tariffs from utilities, would encourage changes in consumer behaviour and more investment in smart technology. The debate over alternative fuels like shale gas needs to be had to assess its suitability and impact on the future of UK energy. Whilst standby generation may seem an easy option, and undoubtedly this will form part of the solution, it also needs to be highlighted that it cannot necessarily be relied on as a last-minute solution, for when the crunch comes, it will be in high demand and availability will plummet.

Continuity plans need to be made for a multitude of scenarios. The Government and businesses alike, need to prioritise the services

Graph taken from Bill Wright's presentation given at BSRIA Workshop

Graph taken from Bill Wright’s presentation given at BSRIA Workshop

they need most and make sure they are supported in the best possible ways. If blackouts are expected to become a regular part of our lives, then announcing them in advance will help companies to plan closures or change working hours. Companies also need to think about how their employees work; the fact is, we are highly dependent on technology like laptops and mobile phones. Without the means to recharge their batteries they quickly become redundant and we become unproductive, so companies need to think of alternative methods to keep their workforce useful – we may even have to resort to good old pen and paper!

What BSRIA could do

 From the workshops, it was suggested that BSRIA can help raise awareness and provide education on the subject. This could take a range of forms, and conferences, publications and guidance for continuity planning were just some of the activities suggested. BSRIA can also work with other organisations towards these goals to help limit the risks for everyone.

‘Point of no return’ for smart buildings

jeremy blog

Mega-Trends for a Smart Buildings Future

I have just returned from the IBcon conference in Orlando, Florida. And what an event it was! A hive of activity, it proved to be a great networking and educational experience, with some of the most innovative smart building owners, operators, specifiers and suppliers in the industry. A key feature of the event is how it successfully brings both the supply and demand side together under one roof. Attendees were spoilt for choice for which educational track to join (some 9 separate tracks each running some 3-5 panels per day) on every subject from smart metering, through smart grid, to energy management services and building system cyber security (or lack of it…), to name just a few. I personally wanted to divide myself up and join all of them! Attendees were primed for these two content-rich days by an excellent and comprehensive launch through the IB Bootcamp, where presenters delivered a series of presentations, showcasing smart building case studies, latest technologies and future visions. In addition to this, there was good participation from suppliers in the exhibitor’s hall, and the fact that the event is co-hosted with Infocom means that there are many more people to visit and to be visited by.

 The big themes of the day were Social Media, Mobility, Analytics and the Cloud, and their impact on the smart, connected buildings community. Each of these is already having a significant impact on our definition and understanding of a smart building and its meaning in the context of smart cities. It is clear that this goes well beyond the realm of energy efficiency and energy management, important though these are. It is also about operational efficiency, occupant satisfaction and productivity. However, building owners are seeking an improvement in installer messaging when being presented so many energy saving tools and practices by so many different suppliers.

 Now we can truly include in the wider frame, the voice of the end user (wherever they happen to be located), the impact of tens or even hundreds of thousands of data points being monitored and analysed daily, in real time, to generate big data trends on which to base solid business decisions and increase the value of an asset.

 I was part of a panel in which there was general consensus that the industry has now “crossed the chasm”, or in other words, reached a critical “point of no return” for smart, connected buildings to become mainstream. These buildings provide significantly higher value to their users and greater returns for their owners. There are now real world examples that can be cited and the “Internet of Everything” is starting to become tangible, moving from hype to reality.

Threats to the Building Automation and Control Systems Market – or Opportunities?

My smart technologies team within BSRIA’s Worldwide Market Intelligence division have been looking at the threats to the traditional building automation and control systems market. But of course, what is a threat to one is an opportunity to another and we are looking at both angles of the changes currently taking place. We will shortly be publishing our findings and conclusions in a new report to be launched later this month.

The global BACS market is currently worth more than $20 billion and is continuing to grow year on year, having pulled through a global recession quite robustly. Not surprisingly, this market has in recent years been attracting new entrants. Now, new technologies, innovations and novel business models are threatening to disrupt the traditional business.

New technologies that utilise the “Cloud”, developed by relative newcomers such as BuildingIQ and Mios, as well as established multinationals like Johnson Controls and Schneider Electric are providing energy management, self-diagnosis and adjustment functionality not previously available in a Building Automation and Control System (BACS). Suppliers are now faced with the reality “If I am not in the cloud, my competitors probably will be.” There is a growing assumption that all key services and solutions should be accessible via “the cloud” but there are concerns and these are explored in our report.

As building automation becomes more IT-based, software is growing in importance, within both targeted applications and in detailed analytics to identify areas where performance may be improved. BACS suppliers need to be proactive in this area or risk becoming more commoditised and marginalised.

Suppliers of variable refrigerant flow (VRF) and DX systems are also entering the BACS market with integrated controls and rudimentary energy management functions. The market for VRF based systems has overtaken chillers globally and VRF systems are gaining market share fastest where the markets are expanding most rapidly. We have looked at how the BACS equipped VRF systems in the $9bn VRF market are affecting the HVAC and BACS markets. We analyse whether they pose a great enough threat to change the BACS market altogether or whether they are a factor that could help the BACS market. Since VRF-based systems are becoming ever more ‘intelligent’ this changes the scope for building automation. Incumbents must be asking themselves, “how long until they start offering the same sort of capabilities as high level BACS?”

Residential smart home systems from the low-voltage electrical equipment suppliers such as Jung, Busch-Jaeger and Berker are being used in light commercial buildings; interestingly 60% of such systems sold in Germany are used in the light commercial market and demand is increasing. So here too, it is smart residential controls that are posing a threat to traditional commercial building solutions.

However, is the residential value add market at risk of be snatched away from the current players by the telecoms operators and utilities, bundling remote monitoring and energy management as just further services in their offerings? And could this be the way things will go in the non-residential market too?

Threats to BACS – or Opportunities?

Threats to BACS – or Opportunities?

However, opportunities exist in numerous areas, including in integration and convergence of diverse systems. BACS and in particular, building energy managements systems and services (BEMS) penetration in to the existing building stock is still very low and the opportunities for refurbishment are simply staggering. Perhaps the good news is that for the most part, these new markets remain highly fragmented. We are witnessing heightened activity in the areas of partnerships, mergers and acquisitions. This is enabling companies to broaden their scope of offering and to leverage their core skills and follow the rapid evolution of the market.

Our new report analyses these changes and provides information on how the BACS market is coping with the changes and the wider opportunity to expand “beyond BACS”. Supported by facts, figures and enlivened by charts and illustrations, it will be presented in an accessible PowerPoint format of some 60-70 slides. It draws on BSRIA’s long standing expertise in built environment.

Smart Grid Impact on Intelligent Buildings

BSRIA WMI has just completed a major research study for the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA); an international industry association based in North America, dedicated to the advancement of intelligent homes and intelligent buildings technologies. The study was sponsored by 29 CABA member companies which included a broad mix of disciplines, from building management systems providers to electricity utilities.

What are Smart Grids?

The study, entitled “Smart Grid Impact on Intelligent Buildings” estimates that the North American smart grid non-residential marketplace was worth approximately $6.6 billion in 2011 and should reach $8 billion by 2013.

The smart grid will be an advanced power grid that adds and integrates many varieties of digital computing and communication technologies and services to the power-delivery infrastructure. It will allow bi-directional flows of energy, for example from renewable energy sources, and two-way communication and control capabilities.

The Smart Grid Framework

Benefits

The smart grid will benefit utilities in a multitude of ways, most importantly helping them to flatten the demand curve, which will result in increased grid stability and reliability, but also to help reduce the need for expensive standby generating capacity. At the same time, it will empower end-customers, allowing them to save on energy costs and buy at optimal times of the day when prices are lower.

The study found that the fastest growing components of the smart grid market are grid applications, followed by demand response and peak load management, building energy management systems, and smart meters. Whilst only a small proportion of building management systems are ready to be connected to the smart grid today, the study noted that smart grid development will become a major driver for the development and deployment of more intelligent building technologies.

The Future

The study emphasizes the need for innovative solutions to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of power generation, transmission and consumption capacity. Intelligent buildings are prime examples of innovative technology that will aid in the deployment of new smart grid infrastructure.

More utilities are now modernizing their infrastructure to make their grids “smart” in order to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics and sustainability of the electricity services delivered to both residential and non-residential building owners. The research found that there is a direct correlation between having a smart grid and attracting more customers and that in time, it will be this that helps to enhance the overall attractiveness of an area for business.

The study is currently under embargo but will be available for purchase by any interested companies from June 2012.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 54 other followers

%d bloggers like this: