Semantic InteroperabilityDemand ResponseFlexibility TradingGrid-Interactive Buildings

From Demand Response to Flexibility Trading: how interoperability can turn Smart Buildings into Grid-Interactive Buildings

Besides placing consumers at the center of the energy transition, semantic interoperability will stimulate an open competitive eco-system where service providers can offer competing services that can be easily found, used and integrated.

Chris Caerts
July 1, 2020

The decarbonization of buildings is a vital element for Europe’s ambitious climate goals.  Building energy usage (for heating, cooling, cooking, lighting, …) is responsible for 28% of the world’s yearly GHG emissions[1], and improving their energy efficiency is of key importance.  Next to reducing their energy needs, equipping them with their own distributed generation (e.g. PV) and electrifying their heating and the transport of its tenants further contributes to their emission reductions.


The distributed generation and electrification present both a challenge and an opportunity to the grid.  On the one hand, this will on average cause grids to be used closer to their limits, and higher peaks in consumption and generation may be observed, calling for more Active Distribution System Management.  On the other hand, distributed generation makes it possible to generate electricity closer to where it is needed, reducing losses and mitigating congestions.  And the electrification of heating and transport adds flexibility, that makes it possible to increase/reduce and shift consumption to align with variable renewable generation (wind and solar) and avoid grid congestions or RES curtailment.  Besides, it can steer electricity consumption to times when the carbon intensity is low, further contributing to emission reductions.  On average, by 2040 this carbon intensity is expected to drop to about 25% of the 2018 carbon intensity, and the average highest carbon intensive hour may emit more than three times the amount of CO2 of the average lowest carbon intensive hour.[2]


However, such active control of Smart Buildings, that optimize their consumption in response to pricing or other Demand Response incentives, makes it harder to forecast congestions and even may cause congestions if not properly coordinated.  To overcome this problem, buildings should not just be Smart, supporting remote monitoring and control and automatically optimizing their consumption and responding to Demand Response requests.  They should become Grid Interactive, informing relevant stakeholders about what they plan to do as a result of their optimal planning, and what they could do, i.e. what flexibility they can offer.  Through this upstream Flexibility Trading information flow from the Grid Interactive Buildings to a Community Manager or other grid or market stakeholders, better informed flexibility activation decisions can be taken by the latter, based on information instead of guesses.  All information exchanges must protect privacy, for instance by not disclosing information from individual sensors or meters but by only communicating building level aggregated – and possibly obfuscated – information, e.g. resulting from an optimization resulting in the active control of flexibility.


To successfully leverage building level flexibility, interoperability, and more specifically semantic interoperability proposed in standards such as SAREF (Smart Appliances REFerence ontology), is of prime importance.  It “flexibalizes” the interactions and data exchanges between actors and between actors and service providers that offer specific added-value functionalities.  It does this by precisely defining the meaning of data at a semantic level, so that this data can be automatically translated by any actor or service into a form that it understands.  Besides, it embeds information in the interaction calls to denote their meaning, so that there is no longer a need for a fixed interaction scheme that prescribes a rigid sequence of actions.  Next to interaction calls to exchange data between actors or between actors and service providers, there as well are capability discovery interaction calls that make it possible to find a suitable service in a service store, and either connect to it remotely or download and install it on a local platform.


Such semantic interoperability is important for Building Energy Management Systems to converse with the huge diversity of meters and sensors and energy flexibility resources from many different manufacturers: both for collecting information on their capability and state, as well as for controlling them in line with a determined optimal plan.  Furthermore, it is needed to receive Demand Response incentives and requests and — for Grid Interactive Buildings — communicate plans and available flexibility without vendor lock-in.  Interoperability will ensure that consumers are empowered to at all times offer their flexibility to a stakeholder of their choice, rather than being constrained by a rigid Demand Response contract.  Besides placing consumers at the center of the energy transition, semantic interoperability will stimulate an open competitive eco-system where service providers can offer competing services that can be easily found, used and integrated.







Next article

Distribution system operators are increasingly improving their smart toolbox to further enable the energy transition, but their success and the energy transition as a whole depend not least on the active participation of consumers.

Kirsten Glennung
June 17, 2020