Within an electric grid, timing is everything. "It's not how much power you use, it's when you use it," says Mary Ann Piette, who directs the Demand Response Research Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The biggest benefits of adjusting demand come with automation. Piette and her colleagues have spent nine years developing standards for how utilities communicate with buildings' controls. Each state must adopt standards individually, but researchers this year are agreeing on grid specifications that all states can share, easing widespread adoption. Piette says, "With minimal retrofit to controls, today's buildings can provide a significant reduction to their peak electric loads." Shifting load by just a few minutes can make a crucial difference—for example, temporarily dimming warehouse lights by 10 percent. Such technology can lower prices and reduce the need for new transmission lines and power plants.
Researchers in the Building Technology & Urban Systems Division (BTUS) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory develop data and technologies that increase energy efficiency and improve the health, safety and comfort of building occupants, in the United States and worldwide.
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