Within the next decade, more than 20 percent of electricity demand in the United States is expected to be met by building operators and homeowners more effectively optimizing their energy consumption and resources in collaboration with their utilities, energy experts at Honeywell predict.

Honeywell expects this shift to put energy users at the center of efforts to make the utility grid smarter and more stable. Accomplishing the transformation, the company says, will include permanent reductions in energy use, temporary consumption reductions when demand spikes, and increased on-site generation and storage. In all cases, Honeywell says, the key driver is expected to be the continued innovation and deployment of applications that connect homeowners and building owners to utilities and allow users to automate their response to changes in energy reliability and prices.

Although energy capacity managed through customer-focused programs from utilities represents only about 5 percent of total U.S. requirements, Honeywell, citing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, says utilities’ demand-response programs could increase that figure to 14 percent by 2020, reducing peak demand by 100 gigawatts. This level of generation capacity, Honeywell says, would eliminate the need for approximately 2,000 peaking power plants, plants that sit idle until customer energy demands exceed the power a utility company can deliver. The figure could top 20 percent if customers add more on-site generation, such as solar and wind-powered systems, Honeywell says.

Additionally, Honeywell says, energy-efficiency measures could cut annual electricity consumption in the United States by 2,700 terawatt-hr, or 10 percent of total usage, reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by an estimated 1.8 billion metric tons.

“The real gains come in combining all these efforts,” Paul Orzeske, president of Honeywell Building Solutions, said. ”The smart grid is not just about making utility equipment and networks more intelligent. The other side of the coin is providing energy users with the technology that allows them to participate in the dynamic exercise of balancing supply and demand.”

To ensure the success of the evolving grid, several challenges must be addressed, Honeywell says. This includes setting national standards to ensure utilities and customers can exchange information securely and creating federal and state incentives that foster domestic resources and encourage efficiency and flexibility. Also, the merging of traditional energy-saving initiatives in facilities with utility-driven programs must continue to gain momentum.

“The lines between producer and consumer are starting to blur, which provides an opportunity to change the old and somewhat antiquated energy models,” Jeremy Eaton, vice president of energy solutions for Honeywell Building Solutions, said. “We need to create effective bonds between utilities and their customers, bonds that deliver value across the entire supply-demand continuum. The good news is the technology to build these connections and give users the ability to automate energy decisions already exists. And it requires less capital than generating new power.”