Californians Can Be So Demanding

featured-aeiforaWith it being a driver of a huge chunk of the U.S. economy, California is on target to lead the way in green construction with its revision to the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards (known as Title 24 Energy Code). Being revised for the first time since 2008, the new standard (among other items) mandates that the design team completes a pre-construction building commissioning plan that includes all the systems for potential energy use within the building including lighting, HVAC and Information Communications Technology (ICT). This mandate goes into effect June 1, 2014 and is meant to support a holistic approach to energy efficient design by using energy modeling tools and smart design solutions such as having each system separately metered to be able to determine real time loads by system and building automation strategies for controllability.

Building automation systems are the method of choice when it comes to solving the complex nature of energy control and allow the design team to use specific metrics based on the technologies employed to give the best picture of potential energy use and demand response strategies. For example, one of the biggest hurdles to the statewide code is in controllability of lighting. The 2013 Title 24 standard requires smart controls that have the ability to be scheduled and utilize timing features to turn lights off when not in use such as during daylight hours. The code also requires that all buildings become “solar-ready” with anchorage points for PV panels and raceways for power and control cables.

While lighting takes the prize for the majority of changes to the code, plug-load circuit controls are also included in the revisions. This section of the revised code (Section 130.5(d)1) requires automatic shut off controls on all electric circuits that serve plug loads. This includes not only task lighting plugged into an outlet, but also audiovisual, computers and other devices that are prevalent in the workplace today. Where this will have the most impact is the continued roll out of the National Smart Grid, which will allow energy providers to throttle back and shed loads to meet demand based on real time metering. These will matter to the end user as the fastest growing demand in the built environment is plug loads mainly from technology devices including audiovisual, IT and other communications.

The good news is that with smart building controls, including plug load control, facilities managers can work with the public utilities to determine how best to meet any necessary reductions. California is primed for this with high energy demands and a serious power supply shortage as aging power generation plants go off line and new ones are slow to be approved, constructed and come on line.

All of these decisions were aided by the 2013 Integrated Energy Policy Report by the California Energy Commission. The report outlines California’s goal of codifying zero-net-energy new buildings by 2030 for commercial buildings and 202 for low-rise residential. This means it won’t be a choice but mandated if you want to build a new building in the state. Existing buildings will also be required to meet higher efficiency standards upon any renovation with continued additions in the 2016 and 2019 code development cycle.

Of course, the biggest hurdle will be the financing and tax offsets necessary to develop and implement the required changes. Having the current new code of pre-construction building commission planning provides the opportunity to develop solutions before any shovels hit the dirt. This is the second best opportunity to keep the financial impact low. The best opportunity is developing strategies at the start of design with input from all the stakeholders including the ICT industry and end users to help manage plug-load.

Demand response is going to be the single biggest driver in upcoming years as the time it takes to develop, get approval for and implement new power generation systems whether traditional such as oil, gas and nuclear or sustainable such as wave generation, solar, and wind. The new Title 24 Code aligns closely with the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) and its mandates for plug load power management. The only attainable track until new power is created is to rely on smart demand response methods.

The Energy Commission has outlined its top five strategies for helping California manage the demand loading order of preferred resources. From the report these include:

  1. “Establishing rules for direct participation of demand response in California Independent System Operators (ISO) markets.”
  2. “Develop and pilot testing additional market products to identify the most promising program and tariff approaches and develop a multi-year, forward auction mechanism to target demand response in capacity restrained areas.”
  3. “Resolving regulatory barriers for the development and implementation of a multi-year reliability framework that accounts for customers attributes and the type of load reductions they can provide.”
  4. “Continuing the collaborative process among the Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California ISO, the Governor’s Office to advance fast response remand response, develop a joint work plan, and advance forecasting accuracy.”
  5. “Advancing Customer Acceptance of demand response, informed by an independent assessment of potential customer participation in a range of targeted demand response programs, communication strategies and evaluation reports, and communication lessons learned by early 2014.”

These strategies work to help meet the demand California expects to have based on the most recent Energy Commission’s 10-year energy demand forecast. The state updates this report every two years and is used in many applications including how California is going to procure and transmit electricity throughout the state. The California Energy Demand Final Forecast 2014-2024 looks at low to high demand scenarios that reflect different assumptions about economic growth and populations. This is in conjunction with current energy use trends such as higher electric vehicle penetration and denser technology use such as smart phones, tablets and data centers along with climate predictions and electricity prices. Even though the report indicated a relatively flat growth between 2012-2024, the degradation of current infrastructure puts undue burden on the system resulting in the need to manage power demand driving the revisions to Title 24.

So what does this mean for the rest of the country? Well since California has such an impact on the Nation’s GDP and contains a large portion of the country’s population, it will not take much to have other states follow suit if they haven’t already. This includes those already adopting the IGCC as an overlay code to their current building code mandates. The real opportunity here is with the Information Communications Technologies industry in working with design partners to continue to develop smart building solutions to help shed the plug load when demand response off-loading is required in an intelligent way rather than letting the PUC decide what gets turned off. It could be your clients’ projector during their important presentation. Then we would see who is really demanding.