July 2004

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A Wake-up Call and a Brainer

  David E. Craven
Director of OEM Sales

Ask any economist worth his salt what the total impact on American industry would be if our gross use of energy were to decrease by 15% over the next 10 years.

This article initiated from a Letter to the Editor from Dave.  See copy of the email at the end of the article.

Thirty one years have passed since the wake up call was made, 1973 to be specific. Letís review some basic statistics past and present.

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For the purpose of conceptual simplicity let's talk quads, or quadrillion BTU units since it is cumbersome to talk in terms of millions of barrels of oil or terawatts or trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, and besides everything eventually boils down to BTUís anyway.

In 1960 the USA used about 46 quads a year and domestic production was about the same for all forms of primary energy, those being oil, gas, hydroelectric and coal. In 2002 we used about 100 quads while domestic production had only increased to 71 quads for all forms of primary energy in the same time period. Our imports were less than two quads in 1960, in 2002 about 28 quads.

Nominally speaking the supply side of the equation is a little more complex than in 1960 in that there are several categories of supply that did not exist in any significant percentage back then. Those channels being nuclear, wind, solar and geothermal. The consumption side of the equation is essentially the same with use categories being residential, commercial, industrial and transportation.

In 2002 residential consumption accounted for 21% of the total, commercial 19%, industrial 33% and transportation 27%.

Letís center on commercial and industrial energy consumption from here on. Frankly, it is my personal opinion that if you look at what the automotive industry has accomplished over the last 50 years in terms of efficiency and safety while still managing to cater to the oh so fickle American consumer you have to take your hat off to them. I confess, I drive a six year old car that still averages better than 21 miles to the gallon combined highway/city driving. Go back and look at the numbers on fuel economy for production passenger cars in 1960 and see how many averaged 20 miles to the gallon of gas. You could count them on one hand.

Where we collectively have fallen short is in commercial and industrial energy conservation / management, and specifically with the small C&I energy user. In the USA the makeup of the 4.6 million commercial and industrial buildings looks something like this.

Anyone involved with development, design, construction or operations of commercial or industrial facilities will tell you that automation is an absolutely essential component of a successful energy conservation / management plan. But ask any member of that group how many facilities under 50,000 GSF have any level of automation and the answer is probably very few. Below 5,000 GSF, almost non-existent. You would have to look long and hard to find a million plus GSF facility without a building automation system. I am not talking about time clocks here. I am talking about automation systems capable of performing fairly sophisticated functions that would include interaction with external systems using the latest technology. The simple reasons for this are cost and complexity. Your basic Mom & Pop deli, the local dentist, the branch bank or the retail proprietor will only be able to afford automation if it comes to them in the form of an embedded appendix of those products they rely on to conduct their basic business. Their HVAC, refrigeration and lighting systems etc. Oh, and by the way, the man machine interface and networking of these devices to an IP connection will need to be as simple as unpacking the box, connecting the 110 and Internet. Local connectivity to the individual appliances and systems will almost certainly be a wireless solution.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Why consider this group of end users when the approach to them is barricaded with these two huge obstacles? Very simply, the energy intensity in terms of BTU/sf/yr for these facilities is nominally 30% higher than larger facilities, and yes there are many reasons for that condition. Not the least of which are lower net efficiencies of smaller incremental HVAC products, lower levels of professional maintenance, lack of automation etc.

Thatís the good news. The bad news is that whether or not these small facilities are being serviced in regulated or de-regulated utility markets they are almost always on the worst part of the curve when it comes to rate structures and tariffs. Add to that, the average small C&I customer has no ability to interact with a local Energy Service Provider in an automated fashion so as to take advantage of curtailment or capacity control programs offered by many of the utilities or ESPís.

If you have ever had the opportunity to look in detail at the basic tenets of most of the curtailment or capacity control programs that are made available to the small C&I customer you can only come away shaking your head. The utility viewpoint is somewhat myopic. From their perspective curtailment consists of shedding load for a specific time, command based, with a fixed value, one way. Admittedly this is a generalization on my part, but not by much. Utilities have been doing a fair job at delivering incentive based solutions to these customers in many areas of the country. Lighting systems have figured prominently in most of those programs. Itís a no-brainer. But the time has come for a brainer, if we have any aspirations of answering the wake up call.

Ask any economist worth his salt what the total impact on American industry would be if our gross use of energy were to decrease by 15% over the next 10 years. Never mind what the net effect would be in geo-political terms. How much is actually wasted? Does anyone know?

In my professional experience I have participated in the evaluation of hundreds of different facilities from an energy performance standpoint, as many have in the building automation industry since 1976. In all that time and in all of that effort there has been only one facility that I was exposed to where there was not a single energy conservation opportunity of reasonable value worthy of consideration. That facility had a total energy intensity of roughly 1/2 of the mean for that category of facility and for that particular geographic area.

A perfect example of what is in fact attainable in larger facilities is the Centex Building in Dallas Texas. In 2000 the building received a score of 99 out of 100 possible from Energy Star. A total energy intensity of 28.4 KBTU/sf/yr was achieved. The mean intensity for that geographic area is 85 KBTU/sf/yr. That is approximately 1/3 of the energy consumption from the mean of that category. Is that type of performance possible in every instance? No, but what is?

Back to reality for a moment. Your average small C&I customer has no application for thermal storage systems or highly customized building automation systems. They do however have a greater need for near real time interaction with their ESP than do larger users. Remember, they are at the business end of the rate structures to begin with, they have an energy intensity base 30% higher than larger facilities and they collectively represent 53% of the gross square footage of commercial and industrial floor-space in the USA. All they need are the products and applications. In the near term equipment manufacturers and automation manufacturers have a unique collaborative opportunity to fill the void. Embedded intelligent application specific controllers can fill a good part of the bill. Simplified transaction applications could easily enable the small C&I customer unprecedented access to a playing field they canít get to today. Letís not forget to mention the benefit to the entire grid infrastructure. Allowing managed levels of bi-directional data exchange and control of the energy consuming systems of millions of end users would be an enormous load management tool for the electric utility sector. The system might look something like this.  

The Future Energy Network

There are several technologies converging at a fairly rapid pace that will facilitate the eventual deployment and expansion of the tertiary components of the future energy network. Transaction management services who act as an intermediary between end user and ESP are coming to life and in the parlance of the day are getting some legs. Connectivity solutions for older automation systems are increasingly available. High speed RF spread spectrum wireless technology capable of supporting serial communications to intelligent embedded ASCís is a reality.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] The last point I would like to touch on is the attitude we collectively exhibit when it comes to energy conservation. In the midst of a national crisis, and make no mistake when you boil down the numbers, we are in a crisis. We have a tendency to wring our hands and look for the guilty. I have to admit that I have been disappointed with the limited support and interest that the federal government has shown in terms of setting what should be a national goal of energy independence where conservation is a centerpiece as opposed to the window dressing. In 2050 when the demand for energy has increased to 300 or 400 Quads I certainly hope we wonít have to listen to another round of our leaders decrying failings of the past 12 administrations. It would be somewhat like Colonel Sanders demanding to know what happened to all the chickens.

 Reference Data Cited from the Energy Information Administration USDOE

About the Author

Dave Craven is the Director of OEM Sales for Andover Controls Corporation. He is a graduate of Wiwatersrand University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. He has 28 years of experience in the Building Automation sector. He is involved in developing automation products and applications that will be delivered through non traditional OEM channels for Andover Controls.


From: Craven,Dave
Sent: 10-Jun-04 5:41 AM
To: sinclair@automatedbuildings.com
Subject: Engineered Systems Article


I enjoyed reading your piece on the impending wireless explosion. You are absolutely correct on one point, and that is that the overall impact on the Building Automation will be staggering. We started working with Ember about two years ago when most of the technology was at smoke stage, getting serious about a year ago when we actually found a home for sufficient numbers of the devices to drive manufacturing costs to the point where there is a significant enough delta over wiring and commissioning costs. That same reception hasn't quite found enough legs in the traditional BAS marketplace as opposed to equipment manufacturers.

I said I agreed with your article's major point but you may have overlooked a larger one. Being able to lower the bar on installation costs while simultaneously being able to embed a whole new layer of applications will eventually make it possible to bring automation to virtually every component in every electro-mechanical system in any building. The driver for doing so will be energy. Utilities / Energy Service Providers have been unable to do anything other than scratch the surface with near real time control with all 4 million of the small C&I customers in this country, those folks whose electrical demand is typically less than 100 KW. Collectively we have a national crisis on the front burner with regard to our nations' energy supply and its aging distribution system.

I think it may be realistic to look down the road a very few years and see complete connectivity and control capability being delivered to the small C&I customer to all levels of their energy consuming systems, not to mention other appliances or processes to costly to consider extending automation to today. The gap between end user and manufacturer will narrow considerably and in less than 5 years there will be many more things on the internet than there will be people using the infrastructure.


David E. Craven
Director of OEM Sales


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