What’s Next for Auto-DR?

Demand response is a proven strategy for controlling energy consumption during peak periods. When summer heat or other weather patterns push usage to the limit, property managers and engineers often initiate demand-response events ease brownouts and prevent blackouts.

Now, say senior industry professionals, the next wave in demand-response technology will be wider adoption of automation. Often called Auto-DR for short, the strategey adjusts power loads automatically through signals sent to HVAC controls, lighting and other building systems.

California, a longtime pacesetter for energy strategies, is encouraging Auto-DR participation through building-code updates and by prodding utilities to offer improved incentives.

Meanwhile, industry practitioners are weighing in. California utilities’ early Auto-DR incentive programs have shown the value of timely, detailed energy consumption data, noted Paul Lilley, a Transwestern vice president who oversees engineering services for the firm’s western region.

“Having the real-time meters the utilities recommend for these programs enhances our ability to audit energy use, and gives us a better read on when and where our demand is,” Lilley said. “We can plan ahead and adjust now that we are better able to anticipate spikes in energy use at particular buildings.”

The value of real-time consumption data is enough to justify the costs and effort of becoming Auto-DR-enabled, contended Sara Neff, vice president of sustainability for Kilroy Realty Corp. It can help identify efficiency measures and flag wasteful consumption when timers or set points have not been returned to default settings after temporary adjustments, she noted.

As for conducting DR runs, Transwestern’s Auto-DR-enabled building can launch any time Lilley’s team determines that cutbacks during high-demand periods can cut energy costs notably without diminishing tenant comfort or convenience. “Having this equipment and technology we didn’t have previously—such as the dimmable ballast capabilities—is proving to be quite beneficial during high-demand periods.”

Combined strategically with additional energy analysis software, the programmable, multi-stage consumption-curtailment levels and sequences available with modern Auto-DR programs help building managers optimize the scheduling and intensity of internal events based on weather forecasts and consumption patterns in conjunction with utility tariff structures, added Neff.

Such measures, which Kilroy typically employs once or twice monthly at many properties during the hotter half of the year, cut demand charges while enhancing grid reliability.

As Neff explained: “We are aware of coming peak periods, and we can (implement) the most effective load-curtailment stage for a property on that day without jeopardizing occupant comfort.”

For much more about trends in DR, be sure to read “Does Demand Response Pay?” in the July issue of CPE.