Senior executives from HVAC, government, and industry associations explored the broad potential of the smart grid and the smart grid’s impact on U.S. buildings and building systems during the 16th Danfoss EnVisioneering Symposium, held Nov. 11 in Bonita Springs, Fla.

Titled “The Grid, Systems & Buildings: A Glimpse Over the Horizon,” the roundtable discussion examined standards, smart buildings, existing and emerging technologies, energy storage, and policy.

One key theme quickly emerged: Utilities need stronger collaboration with manufacturers to better understand how the latest HVACR technologies can be applied and impact energy use and peak utility loads. Likewise, manufacturers need to ensure their products will help utilities become more efficient and better prepared for the future smart grid.

“Equipment manufacturers know best how to optimize energy—and are most responsive to how it can be linked to the grid,” Christopher Irwin, smart-grid standards and operability coordinator, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, U.S. Department of Energy, said. “Engineers need to design systems that take into consideration how they can be integrated into a ‘whole building system’ and applied to a smart grid.”

David Holmberg of the National Institute of Standards and Technology said that as technology advances, utilities and manufacturers need to synchronize their efforts to understand how new building technologies will integrate with the grid.

Clay Nesler, vice president, global energy and sustainability, Johnson Controls, addressed commercial buildings and the demand for a whole-building-systems approach to creating a “smart building,” the systems of which not only work together, but communicate with the grid to reduce energy use during peak demand periods.

Nesler discussed an automated demand-reduction project at Georgia Institute of Technology, where electricity is purchased based on dynamic hourly pricing from the local utility. Each hour, the building-management system reads energy prices for the next 48 hr and adjusts usage accordingly. With an almost 1-MW peak-load reduction and a 7-percent energy-consumption reduction, the project improved energy and grid performance.

Even though a true smart grid may be on the horizon, action by manufacturers, contractors, utilities, and policy makers is needed today, Mark MacCracken, chief executive officer, CALMAC Manufacturing Corp., said.

“As an industry, we need to encourage the designers to specify the available technology and equipment that is able to be integrated into the smart grid,” MacCracken said. “If it is not being installed now, we’re setting ourselves back by not getting the equipment into place for the future.”

Robert Wilkins, vice president, public affairs, Danfoss, said technologies providing value to both consumers and utilities exist. Citing the example of variable-speed air conditioning, he said consumers benefit from greater energy savings, increased comfort, and reduced noise compared with traditional fixed-speed systems, while utilities benefit from superior performance and responsiveness in peak utility load conditions.

“The urgent need,” Wilkins said, “is in the development of utility programs that spur deployment of such innovative and smart-grid-ready technologies. That’s where the cooperation between all parties is critical.”