PILOT

SVCE Pilot Funds Resiliency & Education

The Upshot

It's been a rough couple of years for California Schools. They are seeing increased wildfire activity, more severe and dramatic weather events, worsening air quality, and more frequent grid outages. Consequently, there’s no time to waste in making sweeping changes to our methods of energy production and consumption. At the same time, COVID has created a pressure cooker. The pandemic is putting huge demands on the time and budgets of public facilities, operations and maintenance staff. Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) is a public, not-for-profit agency that provides clean electricity for 270,000 residential and business customers across 13 Silicon Valley communities in Santa Clara County. SVCE selected Smart & Resilient Schools (a partnership between Extensible Energy and CEL) as one of only four pilots to receive funding in a competitive solicitation targeting solutions for community-wide resiliency.

HELPING SCHOOLS RESPOND

K12 solar-powered schools are experiencing changing energy prices and negative impacts of grid instability. As this happens, they can either operate on an unpredictable energy grid or add costly onsite energy storage. But limited budgets leave schools searching to reduce the heavy up-front costs of acquiring and operating cost-reducing and resilience-enabling technologies. With this dilemma in mind, SVCE funded a pilot demonstration for transforming traditional solar schools into smart and resilient schools.

Central to the demonstration is smart building controls technology. This technology treats any commercial building with a solar array like a battery whether or not a battery is installed. The software shapes when and how much energy a building is using. As a result, it reduces two important aspects of a building owner's energy bill: demand charges and energy costs. This can have a dramatic impact on the building's utility bill. Making this change has been shown to reduce demand charges as much as 30% and energy costs by 5-25%. As an additional benefit, the technology saves money and "shapes" the building's energy use. Therefore, an energy storage system can back up the facility for a longer duration and at a lower cost.  That makes resiliency more affordable, too.

“We’re excited to be working with CEL and Extensible Energy on this pilot program for increasing sustainability and cost savings for our communities’ school districts,” said Girish Balachandran, SVCE CEO. “We hope this program can be a model for school districts across the US who are implementing solar, energy efficiency, and energy storage for resiliency.”

SVCE plans to continue its sustainability commitment with new programs encouraging school districts to adopt load flexibility software and storage. Doing so will allow for “islanding” and resiliency during potential blackouts.

PAYING IT FORWARD

Issues of resilience, decarbonization and energy savings are urgent and pervasive. Therefore, the Smart & Resilient Schools team wanted to advance students’, faculty, family members’ and staff understanding of load flexibility as a core component in a resilient, renewable energy future. This was accomplished through a series of six community-centric workshops on the topic of grid-interactive efficient buildings. The workshops were co-sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Southern California Edison (SCE) with additional participation and involvement from Duke Energy and Ameren.

Workshop participants in a Smart & Resilient Schools Workshop for SVCE pilot

Workshop participants play an interactive game about energy technology.

Building energy codes such as Title 24, CALGreen, local reach codes and utility tariffs are changing quickly. As a result, building owners must take steps to reduce peak-time energy consumption and slow growth in energy demand. Critically, this must occur even while electrifying buildings and keeping occupants safe and comfortable. Workshop participants gained a greater understanding of technologies, programs and practices that prepare them to address increasing complexity in building energy management, compliance, and decarbonization. They also had a lot of fun. Lessons were scaffolded in a way where learning was interactive and hands-on. One game helped participants figure out how to meet multiple competing demands for safety, staff time, emissions reduction and savings. Play it yourself! Game rules are here.

Co-sponsor, SCE, will continue to offer the workshops through its Energy Education Centers as one strategy to meet its Pathway to 2045 commitments. Workshops will be on April 12 & 13, 2022 from 8:30-12:30 Pacific Time and are open to commercial building owners and service providers of all kinds. The course will be virtual and SCE is footing the bill so there is no cost to enroll.

OUTCOMES

THE TECHNOLOGY

During a period of high disruption due to COVID precautions at host schools, the Smart & Resilient Schools team worked diligently with the schools to import years' worth of 15 minute energy interval data from the host sites. The team simulated building controls across four months (August through December) that account for both heating and cooling periods. They modeled the impact of the smart control technology on both a pre-covid baseline (2019) and a post-covid baseline (2021). Then, they looked at how that impacted a key driver of cost for both energy and resilience: peak demand. Both scenarios demonstrated significant demand savings.

  • At a single high school campus with a 624 kW peak demand, 14 buildings, and electric heating and cooling with 'peaky' mornings and afternoons.
  • Under normal operations (pre-COVID) monthly peak demand savings ranged from 14-24%, or, a simple payback of 2-3 months.
  • Under in-person COVID operations during the Delta surge monthly peak demand savings ranged from 4-10% , or, a simple payback of 9 months.

THE WORKSHOPS

  • Engaged a total of 33 participants
  • 60% of participants were facility managers, architects, maintenance directors, district energy managers or administrators in charge of facilities at municipalities at K-12 school districts.
  • 51% participated in at least 2 hours of workshops and follow-up interviews regarding energy end uses, building controls, HVAC, lighting, and utility programs and tariffs.
  • 27% of registrants participated in a minimum of 8 hours of workshops and 1:1 conversations. A subset of school maintenance, facility, and energy management staff formed a core group devoting more than 12 hours of time. 10 of these participants also passed a quiz at the end of the workshops to qualify for continuing education credit certificates.

CALIFORNIA SCHOOLS - NOW'S YOUR CHANCE!

Are you a California school wanting to get ahead of escalating demand charges, energy costs, and electrification mandates? Contact us to get on the waiting list for this or other pilots that will be operating through 2022. We are aiming, ideally, for site visits during February or April school breaks and installations during April or summer breaks.

IMPLICATIONS & NEXT STEPS

Drawing on learnings from this project, CEL plans user experience enhancements and increased collaboration with EPRI, SCE, and others. In doing so, we will continually address the drivers of peak demand. This will be accomplished without sacrificing facility managers' time or occupants' comfort. 

CUSTOMER EDUCATION

SCE will continue to offer the workshop series free online in 2022 through its Energy Education Center Virtual Curriculum. The workshop will be available in a course called GRID-INTERACTIVE EFFICIENT BUILDING CONTROLS. For this workshop, the target audience is: Controls /System Integrators; Facility managers & Engineers; Maintenance Directors; Energy managers; Building Owners & Operators and will be open to anyone, not just SCE customers.

DISTRIBUTION CAPACITY

CEL is developing control capabilities to respond to local load management pricing, circuit loading, and other types of grid capacity constraints. We plan to work with utilities and energy providers in identifying potential levers in terms of carrots and sticks. Subsequently, we will conduct field tests to engage customers in managing bulk and local distribution constraints on the road to building decarbonization. 

TIME VARYING PRICES & SIGNALS

Key next steps are to deploy load management technology in a handful of representative small to mid-size building types exposed to time-varying utility tariffs. This will be accomplished using the California Energy Commission (CEC)'s Market Informed Demand Automation Server (MIDAS) database and other demand-shaping signals such as Marginal Operating Emissions Rate (MOER). Moreover, CEL has secured a $200,000 voucher from the CEC to verify the results of these field tests in California. Information gathered over a single heating and cooling season in multiple climate zones will be critical. Using this information, CEL will gain generalizable insight on the price and carbon emissions impacts that programs and tariffs coupled with load shifting technology could provide.

UTILITY USE CASES & GRID BENEFIT

Outages in states like California and Texas show the shortcomings of current state-of-the-art utility-side demand response in the face of grid resiliency, variable renewable energy generation, and unpredictable weather patterns. In contrast, the DOE-funded Pacific Northwest Demonstration and California Energy Commission’s Retail Automated Transactive Energy System (CEC-500-2020-038) show that more granular, dynamic signals are an innovative means to reduce deployment effort for utilities while solving a variety of transmission, distribution and market constraints. Above all, we want to make this useful and accessible for the vast majority of smaller utility customers. Through EPRI, CEL is partnering with utilities to:

  • Determine the location-specific value of building flexibility inclusive of behind-the-meter distributed energy resources and electrification
  • Estimate the value that specific customer segments with similar end-use load types could provide to the grid;
  • Assess other incentive/technology combinations for providing grid services.

Early experience will guide energy provider programmatic scale-up using combinations of rates, incentives, and technologies for promising customer segments and distribution system applications. Within those programs CEL's technology can handle the complexity of the rates and multiple operational objectives in small to mid-sized commercial buildings.

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