3 min read

All the Energy Management acronyms (and trends) [Nexus Newsletter #84]

Hey friends,

A client once asked me to explain the competitive landscape for energy management and efficiency software.

I decided to frame the conversation from the perspective of the building owner. If I’m a building owner and I want to reduce the energy consumption of my portfolio, what options do I have?

Among those options, which are simpler, cheaper, or more foundational? Which of the options enable the others?

The resulting roadmap worked its way into my work at NREL and eventually become a new framework I call The Energy Management Hierarchy of Needs (EMHON).

As more and more organizations make carbon reduction commitments, it's becoming more important than ever.

Join 250+ others by signing up for tomorrow's Live Broadcast, where I'll unpack the hierarchy and use it to explain today's energy management software landscape.

See you then.

—James

P.S. Besides EMHON, how many energy nerd acronyms can you count in today's newsletter? Sorry in advance...


At the Nexus

Here’s everything we published this week:

🎧 #059 - Cisco DeVries on gamifying grid flexibility and why fighting climate change depends on it—We unpacked why all of us should and eventually will care about virtual power plants (VPP) and grid interaction, and how OhmConnect is enabling it today in California, Australia, and soon, Texas.

I loved hearing about the two primary problems OhmConnect had to solve: engage consumers on one side and sell their aggregated demand reduction on the other.

---

SME Workshop: The State of the BAS Industry with Matt Schwartz (Pro members only)This was a great follow up to the three-part series Matt and I did in 2020 on Why the BAS industry is broken, the architecture of the future, and the way to implement it (complete with a sample specification). Matt gave us an update on today's market and answered members' questions.


Signal vs. Noise

Only the best smart building resources we consumed this week…

---

Phaidra raises more cash to build the future of industrial automation—More companies and investors are getting behind the Advanced Supervisory Control (ASC) concept. In a nutshell, control systems across the built environment need a smarter overlay to meet today's requirements.

This time, it's Seattle startup Phaidra raising a new round from Mark Cuban and others. Phaidra's team came from Google's DeepMind, where they developed the ML methods to reduce data center cooling energy consumption by 40%. Now they're turning their attention to industrial facilities after partnering with a co-founder with deep HVAC experience at Trane.

Go deeper:

  • BrainBox AI's Jean-Simone Venne described how these reinforcement learning technologies work on Nexus podcast episode 8.
  • I wrote a three-part series on ASC in buildings that begins here.
  • Read Google's research paper on these methods, written by Phaidra's founders.

---

The lurking threat to solar power’s growth—I love talking to podcast guests like Cisco DeVries and Matt Golden to understand the implications of everything happening to the electric grid in California. Why? Because it's a sneak peak of what's going to happen elsewhere.

"California is a little sneak peek of what is in store for the rest of the world as we dramatically scale up solar.”​— Zeke Hausfather, director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute

This article is a good look at what's happening there: the value of solar–or the wholesale average price relative to other sources–will fall by 85%, decimating the economics of solar farms, at least as California’s grid exists today.

While there's no panacea, how can it be avoided?

  • the addition of low cost storage options, including so called hybrid plants coupled with lithium-ion batteries
  • Add more long-distance transmission lines to allow regions to swap clean electricity as needed
  • Incentivize customers to move energy use to times of day that better match with periods of high generation (see: grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEB))

---

Acuity buys big chunk of Digital Systems business from ams OsramInteresting look at Osram's retreat from connected lighting systems.

While there have been bright moments and some stellar installations, vendors have overall had only limited success at convincing building operators and other customers to outfit lights and the lighting infrastructure with sensors, Ethernet cable and wireless communications chips.​Such schemes are intended to help retailers engage shoppers with personalized discounts; to help any building operator track assets; to guide people to locations; to deliver insights on building usage via data analysis; and to deliver myriad other benefits.

I see this as similar to other moves away from point solutions and towards more comprehensive platforms.

---

That's all for this week! Thanks for reading. 👋