interoperabilityIOTDigital PlatformsInnovation

Interoperability as a requirement for the participation of consumers in the efficient management of energy

Energy management systems are being developed, which aims at allowing the optimal use of existing energy resources

David Rua
December 20, 2019

The reduction of the carbon footprint in the energy consumption is currently being addressed from different perspectives. On the one hand, the use of energy efficiency measures and, on the other hand, the progressive spread of local renewable generation, are essential measures to reduce emissions associated with energy consumption in buildings. In this context, energy management systems are being developed, which aims at allowing the optimal use of existing energy resources (e.g. flexible loads, such as electric heating systems, electric vehicles, etc.).


The operation of these platforms is based on the connectivity and the ability to exchange information between the different existing devices and systems and their end users in order to facilitate the exploitation of new services for energy efficiency on the demand side, both for buildings and for the power grid.


There are already several automation platforms, some of which are open, such as OpenHAB, whose mission is to ensure the interconnection between a local management and control platform and devices from different manufacturers. There is, however, a latent challenge that is associated. Despite the effort to ensure the support for different manufacturers through structured developments and with the participation of stakeholder communities and some manufacturers, there are still several challenges to overcome. On the one hand, these challenges are posed by the reduced interest of the same manufacturers in supporting these open platforms, and on the other hand by their use of proprietary and closed solutions that hinder the role of such platforms and consequently their ability to integrate different devices and systems.


It is important to ensure that the focus on energy management is on solving the challenges of consumer participation by removing the technological barriers that are still associated with them. To this end, it is necessary to ensure interoperable technologies, avoiding the creation of closed ecosystems or restricting the freedom of choice of consumers who have to choose specific solutions from a single manufacturer or forgo functions when combining solutions from different manufacturers. Semantic interoperability proposed in standards such as SAREF (Smart Appliances REFerence ontology) is fundamental for the dissemination of IoT solutions and to avoid obstacles to innovation and competitiveness by the manufacturers and technology integrators, for service providers and, more importantly, for energy end users. Thus, a stronger commitment will become possible in other equally important areas, such as the safe exchange of information and the protection of users’ data through their inclusion in the equipment and services design process.


It is possible for manufacturers to support the European Commission’s initiative (2002/21/EC) in the implementation of interoperable communication systems and electronic services and, this way, to make services available in cooperation with other entities such as electricity retailers and, consequently, smart grid operators. They can also use their own mechanisms for the exchange of sensitive and protected information, which is essential to their business model, namely for the support, assistance and guarantee of technical operation of their products.


The use of interoperability strategies not only benefits the end user but also the manufacturers themselves, since creating new services and establishing new partnerships with other entities will ensure mutual advantages that enable the sustainable support for more efficient use of energy. Electric mobility is one of the vectors with the greatest impact on the consumption side and it is only through interoperable systems that dynamic and differentiated services are created and interconnected, which citizens can use in the context of a truly green economy.


The coming years will be crucial for cementing these strategies, in which large-scale demonstrations and pilots involving manufacturers, integrators, associations, regulators, operators and market agents will have to contribute to the implementation of use cases with services designed for the different types of users, sharing the advantages among the different stakeholders.