A New Generation of Advanced Building Energy Management Systems

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Similarities and challenges the utility industry is facing while implementing an Advanced Distribution Management Systems for Grid Management

With the rapid changes of the utility business model moving towards advanced technologies for their customers and increased momentum of the incorporation of Distributed Energy Resources (DER), including Distributed Generation, Storage, Advanced Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, and the integration of Electric Vehicles, more and more of these resources are being implemented behind the meter. A high percentage of DER’s behind the meter are focused on medium and small buildings. The reason is that a majority of our nation’s electrical energy consumption is in buildings.  Along with the other benefits of DER, building owners are realizing building operational efficiencies, cost reductions, and occupant satisfaction levels.   DER also has the potential to add new and unique challenges to both building facilities managers as well as grid operators.

The answer is coming in the form of a new generation of Building Energy Management Systems and services. This generation of BEMS is a nano or micro system, with parallels to what is happening with Advanced Distribution Management Systems for grid management. As with ADMS and the role they are playing in Grid Modernization, Advanced Building Energy Management Systems (ABEMS) have three required enabling components. These are a ubiquitous, resilient, and cyber secure Communication System providing connectivity, interoperability standards for the integration of existing systems with new components and a “Big Data” management platform with an analytics environment.  More customers are implementing complete stand-alone microgrids and nanogrids at the premise because of the capabilities of DER technologies and the demand for cost effective, clean, resilient, secure energy sources being from building owners and operators. Therefore, smart grids and their benefits are going to happen inside the building, not outside.

Utilities are devoting many resources to developing this new hybrid communications network connecting ADMS to devices on the Grid, Architecting the optimal communication network in front of the meter on the Grid has proven to be a challenge for most utilities. Many are exploring and utilizing implemented infrastructure like the communications networks that have been deployed as part of Advanced Metering Infrastructure programs or deploying a new purpose-built network based on Metro Wi-Fi or WiMAX, Cellular 5 G LTE or newer alternatives like LTE CAT M1 and NB IoT WANB Networks.

One benefit that ABEMS enjoy is an existing standard-based ubiquities communication network in the form of Wi-Fi that is readily available has been implemented and well accepted in building connectivity. It is widely distributed, well understood, and a requirement for doing day-to-day business regardless of the movement to the new generation of ABEMS. Wi-Fi is also guaranteed to be interoperable, unlike any communication protocols.  ABEMS are enjoining the benefits of this existing communication network that’s enabling connection to new connected IoT devices at the very edge of the grid. Due to the criticality of Wi-Fi networks in buildings for business continuity, BEMS will leverage this existing infrastructure. Also, by using Wi-Fi for the BEMS, it requires the devices to implement the best practices for cyber security.  All other communication protocols make it easy to not follow the best practices for cyber security by following their IT departments IoT policy. Transport is not the prime consideration for Cyber Security. Any transport can be made as secure if Cyber Security is implemented correctly on top of the transport. The days of accepting “proprietary protocols and licensed transport to ensure Cyber Security” are over. The industry has discounted the concept of “Security by Obscurity.”  (More to come on Cyber Security in future post

Interoperability is the second component required to create an environment in which ABEMS can be implemented and operated. Interoperability on the grid between ADMS and devices is still something the utility industry is struggling with. One of the more promising open standards for systems and devices on the Grid is Open Field Message Bus (OpenFMB). ADMS and devices that are connected to it on the Grid are mostly new, and implementing a new interoperability standard is less of a challenge when faced by ABEMS that are dealing with legacy Building Management Systems from vendors like Schneider, Honeywell, Siemens, and Johnson Controls. These systems utilize preserved “standards” like BACnet and MODBUS. In reality, most vendors that proport to support these standards have implemented proprietary versions of the standard that in “real world” implementations are not interoperable. To overcome this and provide true interoperability, the leaders of ABEMS suppliers are implementing a robust set of Representational State Transfer (RESTful) web services API’s. This method of providing interoperability provides the benefits of reusability while addressing the unique implementations of other “standards.”

The final component required to implement ABEMS platforms and realize the true value they can provide is to implement a “Big Data” management and an analytic environment. This is also an area the utility industry is struggling with in implementing ADMS for grid management. With ADMS in utilities, one of the biggest challenges is finding the data and achieving the consistency of a common data entity model. In building environments, this may not be as daunting of a task. Both utilities and building enterprises are primarily looking at two alternatives. A Cloud based ABEMS solution, if properly designed, can overcome these hurdles. It should be an “open source” data architecture that uses secure APIs to interface to other systems or components. The system to system cloud interoperability between the ADMS and ABEMS unleash the benefits to building owners to maximize energy and operational savings.  Every dollar saved in a building approximately increases the value of the building by $10 – let alone the impact of the rest of the operations residing in the building.

At BOSS Controls, we believe, like the movement of the utility industry to implement ADMS to manage the challenges of DER’s on the Grid, the industry will see a movement to “connect” to ABEMS to provide situational awareness and intelligence inside buildings.  To continue this discussion, please contact BOSS Controls at bosscontrols.com.

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