Navigant Research Blog

IoT Bridging the Gap for Intelligent Small and Medium-Sized Buildings

— October 24, 2016

Intelligent BuildingLarge building owners have been investing in intelligent building technologies and leveraging these data-driven solutions to reduce costs, improve operational and energy efficiencies, and achieve broader corporate objectives like sustainability. Small and medium building (SMB) owners, on the other hand, often struggle to maintain profits and sustain slim margins with more traditional approaches. Most of these smaller buildings lack the technology to generate the kind of data that ties energy consumption to operational and bottom-line performance. As a result, there is a lost opportunity for these business owners. The Internet of Things (IoT) concept, however, is changing the conversation around building management and delivering impressive results. There are three ways that IoT is opening new doors for SMB energy efficiency and business improvement.

#1: Secure, Scalable, and Easy to Install

IoT is a concept that spans nearly every area of the economy. It is about the connectivity of devices, data, and personalization of technology. IoT is an influential concept when considering energy management and operational efficiency in smaller facilities because it is a pathway to cost-effective technology deployment. An IoT platform for building energy management systems (BEMSs) entails sensors, gateways, and wireless communications to deliver better data to the analytics engine that in turn presents better insights and actions to customers. The significant reductions in cost from this technology approach—as compared to traditional controls and automation—make the benefits of developing intelligent buildings attainable for smaller facilities.

IoT-enabled intelligent building systems are secure, scalable, and interoperable. They assist with open communications and standards within the building space, assisting with reduced costs and improved integration possibilities. Security is becoming a high-profile aspect of intelligent building investment decisions. Solutions providers are installing network-secure IoT platforms that scale to support the same opportunities for improved efficiency and reduced costs in small and medium-sized buildings that are available in large buildings. IoT can deliver essential data, down to the asset level, to support better directives via the BEMS.

The bottom line is that IoT solutions deliver data-driven insights to SMB decision makers without significant business disruption for installation—and at a cost that is justifiable.

#2: Unifying Tool for Multiple Challenges

Energy management remains an important use case for BEMSs because the performance improvements of building systems deliver a transparent ROI through utility bill reductions.

  • Data aggregation: The promise of the intelligent building—and IoT for that matter—is the ability to have a centralized view of building operations to direct changes and make investments that drive down costs and improve experience. One of the big challenges for new customers is that their business has operated with management silos. Spreadsheets, monthly bills, and rules of thumb have often dominated the approach to energy or facilities management because the work at hand is the business happening inside the walls, not facilities optimization. IoT offers customers a new unified platform to bring data together across their silos to make better informed decisions that create efficiencies and cost savings—and even enhance sales.
  • Data presentment: Once the data is centralized, another benefit of an IoT-enabled intelligent building is the visual communications of sometimes complicated data sets. Dashboards, mobile applications, and automated alerts can give customers a quick and concise view of the performance of their facility.

#3: Clear Benefits beyond Just Energy Efficiency

The pain points that drive customers to invest in IoT solutions can vary in each situation, but there are some common themes Navigant Research has identified. It is clear the vendors that are making traction with SMB customers are pitching benefits beyond just energy efficiency.

  • Retail: The centralized data of an IoT solution can be translated into information that is critical for shop owners. Occupancy and environmental data can provide insight into the customer experience: How long do shoppers stay, what route do they travel, and how long do they wait for help? These are clearly non-energy benefits, but fundamental to retail customers’ bottom lines. While the IoT solution may help optimize the environmental conditions for energy efficiency, the cost savings on energy bills are only amplified by longer or more streamlined customer experience.
  • Small and medium-sized offices: Energy efficiency is foundational to calculating intelligent building ROI. Fewer kilowatt-hours used mean fewer dollars on that monthly utility bill. There is an important soft ROI for IoT-enabled solutions for office spaces, albeit a squishy metric of productivity. There are many use cases for intelligent lighting controls, HVAC optimization, and indoor air quality that tell the story of worker productivity. It is the simple narrative that happy employees are more productive. IoT solutions provide the data-driven insight to create the necessary environments to maximize worker satisfaction.

Join Casey Talon, principal research analyst at Navigant Research, Sunita Shenoy, director of Products at Intel, Doug Harp, COO at CANDI Controls, and Vladi Shunturov, founder and president of Lucid, on October 27 for a roundtable discussion. We’ll dive further into these ideas on how IoT can bridge the gap for intelligent buildings in SMBs. Register now.

 

It Takes a Lot of Energy to Catch ‘Em All

— July 29, 2016

Cloud ComputingPokémon GO has taken over the world. For those who have not yet played the game, it’s an augmented reality smartphone app where players walk around collecting Pokémon, battling in gyms, and generally having a good time. It’s also on the forefront of technological innovation, combining mapping data from Google with a narrative from the longstanding franchise. Niantic Labs, the developers of the game, have risen to the forefront of the technology world. Nintendo, one owner of the Pokémon franchise, became the most traded company by value of shares swapped on the Tokyo stock market this century. However, shortly after this rise, the stocks plummeted. Nintendo is not, after all, directly responsible for the development of the popular game and only owns a 32% stake in The Pokémon Company.

However, there is, as they say, a Butterfree in the ointment. The immense popularity of Pokémon GO has caused overrun servers and overheating data centers, making the free app crash every few hours. In addition, players are expressing frustration with the app’s  intense battery draining ability. A typical smartphone battery can drain in as few as 40 minutes of gameplay. The game is based entirely around GPS capabilities, which are notorious battery hogs. While GPS is running, a mobile device cannot enter a sleep state. In addition, communications channels with GPS satellites are very slow, and mapping software is processor-intensive, further compounding the energy intensity of such applications.

The intense data and energy use of the game has caused Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon, to offer Niantic assistance in operating its servers. This intense usage of GPS capabilities, smartphone data, and server capacity promises to bring Pokémon GO to the top spot in smartphone application energy usage. According to SimilarWeb, in its first 4 days of use, the number of Pokemon GO users nearly surpassed Twitter users in the United States.

 Daily Active Users: Pokémon GO vs. Twitter

PokemonBlog

 (Source: SimilarWeb)

In terms of average time users spend using the app, Pokémon GO has surpassed social media sites WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger. The average player uses the app for 43 minutes a day. What’s more, Niantic plans to launch the app in over 200 countries as soon as servers are bolstered. With the current bulk of Pokémon trainers in the United States, a global phenomenon could have a large carbon footprint.

Pikachu-Powered Data Centers?

There’s little information available on the data centers that Niantic is using for the app, but the company is presumably using Google cloud data centers or something similar. Niantic was a part of Google until April 2015, when the two split. Google has always been known for its environmental stewardship in big data. The company’s data centers are reported to use 50% less energy than most in the industry, and it uses renewable energy to power over 35% of its operations. So while no data is available on Niantic’s end, it can be assumed that the company is using industry best practices in its data centers.

Niantic has not released any sort of impact statement on the app’s actual energy use, though it is almost certainly astronomical. Niantic is already hard at work developing improvements to the game, such as limiting the amount of personal data the app could access. The energy use could be measured to assess the app for potential energy improvements. A new tool called EnergyBox, developed by Ekhiotz Jon Vergara from Swedish Linkoping University, measures the energy consumption of mobile devices due to data communication. This tool finds that the way apps are designed helps to curb the energy used to send and receive large amounts of data. Niantic should take note of its app’s energy consumption before rolling it out globally, lest we be trapped in a Diglett-infested desert due to GO-related global warming.

 

Take Control of Your Future, Part VII: Merging Industries, New Entrants, and Colliding Giants

— June 13, 2016

Modern commercial premisesIn my initial blog in this series, I discussed seven megatrends that are fundamentally changing how we produce and use power. Here, I discuss how merging industries, new entrants, and colliding giants are changing our industry.

What Is Happening?

The power energy industry (the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity) is not the sole territory of the incumbent utility anymore. Several players from other industries, including oil & gas (O&G), technology, retail, telecom, security, and manufacturing, are trying to get into the game. Navigant sees many cross-industry movements, and one of them is increased crossover investments between the electric utility and O&G industries. Besides pursuing mergers and acquisitions, which I discussed in one of my previous blogs, we see investments in new areas of opportunity like renewables, distributed energy resources (DER, including distributed generation, energy efficiency, demand response, storage, etc.), transportation, smart infrastructure and cities, and energy management.

As an example, in April, the French supermajor Total announced the creation of a Gas, Renewables and Power division, which it said will help drive its ambition to become a top renewables and electricity trading player within 20 years. According to a statement by the supermajor, “Gas, Renewables and Power will spearhead Total’s ambitions in the electricity value chain by expanding in gas midstream and downstream, renewable energies and energy efficiency.” Other companies, like ENGIE and Shell, have made similar announcements.

A Total Gas Station in Paris

TOTAL

(Source: Reuters)

Fighting for Future Energy Positions

The large incumbent players in the energy industry are under pressure. And the way things are unfolding now, it doesn’t seem like this will change anytime soon. Time to make some minor tweaks? Change course more drastically? Or completely reinvent ourselves? These are discussions that are taking place more frequently at the board and executive levels of the incumbent players.

Electric utilities are under pressure because consumption growth is minimal and, in many cases, flat to slightly negative. The average consumption per customer (both residential and commercial) is declining due to self-generation, energy efficiency, demand response, etc. As a result, revenue is declining. Costs are increasing because of needed investments in a safe, reliable, cleaner, and more distributed and intelligent electric power grid. Utilities are identifying new revenue streams and thinking through new business models that will bring shareholder value going forward.

Oil companies are under pressure because of the continued low oil price. Ever since the oil price dropped to historic lows in 2014, the struggles of the industry have been daily news. Short-term hopes for a recovery were tempered significantly by the outcome of the recent OPEC meetings in Doha. Oil companies are looking for ways to survive by taking out costs, reducing their upstream capital investments, and shutting down unprofitable assets. They are also looking for new opportunities to grow revenue and future shareholder value.

Industry Giants Are Responding

In the last couple of months, I’ve attended several meetings with CEOs from large utilities and O&G companies. It is remarkable how their views on what is happening in the energy space are so similar. What is even more interesting is that their strategies to address the challenges and opportunities are almost identical.

Here is what they say is happening:

  • Energy consumption and gross domestic product (GDP) growth: Although population and GDP growth (at a slower pace) drive growing energy demand, the trend line between GDP and energy consumption growth has been broken. This is especially the case in developed countries. Energy consumption in the United States flatlined from 2014 to 2015 even as GDP grew by 2.4%. Since 2007, energy consumption has fallen 2.4% while GDP has grown by 10%, according to the 2016 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. At the level of individual utilities, we see this playing out. Utilities with no or limited customer growth see their overall revenue declining. Utilities that still see customer growth are reporting that demand (and revenue) is not growing at the same pace. This is creating an unsustainable situation, with flat or declining revenue, while the costs to serve their customers and investments in the grid are growing.
  • Impacts of climate change: In an earlier blog, we discussed the impacts of the growing number of policies and regulations to reduce carbon emissions. It is now clear that this impact is being felt. Beyond the COP21, Clean Power Plan, and other global or federal policies and regulations, many initiatives at the regional, country, state, and local levels are being designed and implemented in support of carbon emissions reductions. Sustainability objectives between government, policymakers, utilities, and their customers are more closely aligned than ever before. States and regulators will continue to discuss how sustainable targets can be met without affecting jobs and the access to safe, reliable, and affordable power. And utilities and O&G companies will continue to evolve to support cleaner, more distributed, and more intelligent energy generation/exploration, distribution, and consumption.
  • Big power to small energy and the rise of the prosumer: Customer choice is driving a large move from big to small energy. More and more customers are choosing to install DER on their premises. DER solutions include distributed generation, demand response, energy efficiency, distributed storage, microgrids, and electric vehicles (EVs). This year, DER deployments are projected to reach 30 GW in the United States. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, central generation net capacity additions (new generation additions minus retirements) are estimated at 19.7 GW in 2016. This means that DER is already growing significantly faster than central generation. On a 5-year basis (2015-2019), DER in the United States is expected to grow almost 3 times faster than central generation (168 GW vs. 57 GW). This trend varies by region because policy approaches, market dynamics, and structures differ. However, the overall move to small power will persist. In other words, the movement toward customer-centric solutions and DER will ultimately become commonplace worldwide.

And here are the strategies of large utilities and O&G companies going forward:

  • Search for shareholder value: Both utilities and O&G companies are looking across the entire energy value chain for future shareholder value. Right now, that value is not in exploration & production or power generation. Yet, shareholders are still interested in natural gas pipelines and transmission that support the movement of natural gas and electricity.
  • Attempts to develop new solutions and businesses: There has been more than just interest from incumbent players in new energy solutions such as renewables and other alternative fuel sources (hydrogen, biofuels, etc.), DER, behind-the-meter energy management, electric transportation, smart cities, etc. With serious profitability and growth pressure on their core businesses, more serious attempts to build new, potentially transformational businesses in this space are increasingly evident.

For example, Total’s Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné states, “The goal is to be in the top three global solar power companies, expand electricity trading and energy storage and be a leader in biofuels, especially in bio jet fuels.” To this end, Total announced last month that it is acquiring Saft, a designer and manufacturer of high-tech batteries for the manufacturing, transportation, and civilian and military electronics sectors. The company reported sales of €759 million ($856 million) in 2015 and employs more than 4,100 people in 19 countries. “The combination of Saft and Total will enable Saft to become the group’s spearhead in electricity storage,” Chairman and CEO Pouyanné said in a news release, “The acquisition of Saft is part of Total’s ambition to accelerate its development in the fields of renewable energy and electricity.”

Transportation and Smart Cities

Transport electrification, the increased use of biofuels (including bio-jet fuels), and the use of hydrogen to fuel vehicles are all on the rise. These alternative fuel vehicles will slowly but surely replace existing carbon-based transportation fleets, which represent approximately 35% of the global demand for oil. Now there are reports of 500,000 committed purchases of the Tesla Model 3. If Tesla can produce 500,000 cars a year, with models that are in the $30,000-$40,000 price and 200-plus-mile range, this will be another tipping point and game changer for EVs.

Meanwhile, as part of the smart city movement, cities are examining the sources and efficiency of their energy in order to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs. In the process, cities are becoming more ambitious and proactive in setting energy strategy. They are seizing opportunities to work with utilities and other stakeholders to create new urban energy systems. The emerging vision is of a smart city with integrated large- and small-scale energy initiatives, including major infrastructure investments, citywide improvements in energy efficiency, and distributed energy generation. As a result, both utilities and O&G companies are increasingly interested in becoming even more engaged with new transportation concepts and innovation (well beyond fuel) and smart cities.

So What Does This Mean?

Do the above examples represent some isolated, small adventures in crossover investments, or do they mark a trend toward two mega-industries (electric utility and O&G) colliding across the entire energy value chain and looking for shareholder value? Time will tell. What is certain is that there will be winners and losers.

There is a clear push for new revenue streams and growth opportunities given the current oil price situation. But we see also new, longer-term threats that will force the incumbent players to reinvent themselves and become broader energy companies. The industry giants seem to be in the best position to be the winners—and ultimately, they have no choice. After all, these are still the biggest companies in the world, and they have a huge shareholder interest that needs to be fed into the future. They simply are not going to declare “game over,” return the equity to the shareholders, and then advise them to go find new companies to invest in.

This post is the seventh in a series in which I discuss each of the power industry megatrends and the impacts (“so what?”) in more detail. My next blog will be about the emerging Energy Cloud. Stay tuned.

Learn more about our clients, projects, solution offerings, and team at Navigant Energy Practice Overview.

 

Take Control of Your Future, Part III: Rising Number of Carbon Emissions Reduction Policies and Regulations

— May 16, 2016

Energy CloudMaggie Shober and Rob Neumann also contributed to this post.

My recent blog discussed seven megatrends that are fundamentally changing how we produce and use power. In the second part of the series, I focused on the power of customer choice and changing demands. Here, we will discuss the rising number of carbon emissions reduction policies and how this trend is fundamentally changing the power industry.

What’s Happening with Carbon Emissions Policies Globally?

The long-term impact of the Paris Climate Agreement will be significant. This agreement will focus on limiting global warming to well below 2°C (3.6°F) by the year 2100. Each nation sets its own target for reducing emissions and updates that mark each year. A record number of countries (175) signed the agreement on the first available day. Governments must now ratify and approve the agreement, which could take months or years. The agreement goes into effect once 55 countries representing at least 55% of global emissions formally join. It’s clear that the tone and tenor of the Paris Climate Agreement is providing a guiding light for nations to reduce emissions.

The biggest news was the full commitment of China. The country, together with United States, was one of the first to sign the final Paris Climate Agreement. The United States and China account for nearly 40% of global carbon emissions. It does appear that China is serious about reducing emissions, since the country has made significant investments in renewables, electric vehicles, green cities, and more. Already the world leader in wind power, China is set to overtake Germany this year in solar power (see chart below).

Renewable Energy Growth in Major Economies

Jan Blog 3

(Source: World Resources Institute)

We see that other countries are not waiting. This week, Germany announced a €17 billion ($19.2 billion) campaign—that’s right, billions—to boost energy efficiency. The ultimate goal is to cut the country’s energy consumption in half by 2050. This is part of meeting domestic and Paris Climate Agreement emissions reduction targets. The campaign could prove bearish for European Union (EU) carbon prices if it reduces demand for power and heating in Germany, the top economy (and emitter) of all the EU’s 28 member states.

Many other initiatives at the regional, country, state, and local levels are currently being designed and implemented in support of carbon emissions reductions, accelerated by the agreement. Importantly, the EU is seeking swift approval and implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement at the United Nation’s Bonn Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany this week.

U.S. Carbon Regulation

And then we have the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP has been stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court until a final resolution of the case passes through the federal courts. Litigation may not be resolved until 2018, although it’s possible a resolution could be reached sooner. There has been a great deal of discussion on compliance with the CPP. Our analysis continues to show that cost-effective compliance includes a variety of options that are tailored to regional characteristics. A recent deep dive by Navigant into a southeastern state with modest renewable resources showed that trading with other states and developing energy efficiency programs and portfolios are key strategies for reducing overall compliance costs. Compliance strategies depend on existing resources; older coal resources on the margin for retirement are able to get a large bang for their buck on the emissions balancing sheet through replacement with gas, renewables, and energy efficiency.

Navigant also investigated the effects of deploying additional energy efficiency resources in order to decrease CO2 emissions in two regions: California and PJM. We found that additional energy efficiency reduces CO2 emissions, overall cost of compliance, and system congestion. The cost to serve load is reduced by 3%-5% in California and PJM. System congestion relief is also likely to occur, which further reduces the cost to serve load. This last point is important, since large, urban utilities are focused on reducing congestion points—and energy efficiency can be used as a solution.

Other Ongoing Developments

Even though the CPP is on hold, many individual states, cities, and utilities continue to move toward the CPP goals to reduce carbon emissions, plan for an advanced energy economy, and meet cleaner generation goals. The CPP parameters are being used as a guide for emissions reductions:

  • Last month, Maryland lawmakers approved the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2016 (SB 921) by large majorities in both houses, increasing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 25% by 2020.
  • As part of the New York Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceedings, the New York Public Service Commission introduced an order that requires placing a value on carbon emissions, focusing on distributed generation portfolios, and compensating customers for their distributed electricity generation.
  • Over the past year, six states led by Tennessee (plus Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, and Pennsylvania), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and a few other national organizations have been developing a National Energy Efficiency Registry (NEER) to allow states to track and trade energy efficiency emissions credits for CPP and emissions compliance purposes.
  • Last week, San Diego announced its pledge to get 100% of its energy from clean and renewable power with a Climate Action Plan that sets the boldest citywide clean energy law in the United States. With this announcement, San Diego is the largest U.S. city to join the growing trend of cities choosing clean energy. Already, at least 12 other U.S. cities, including San Francisco, San Jose, Burlington (Vermont), and Aspen, have committed to 100% clean energy. Globally, numerous cities have committed to 100% clean energy, including Copenhagen, Denmark; Munich, Germany; and the Isle of Wight, England.
  • Meanwhile, many utilities are decommissioning or converting their existing coal plants and investing in utility-scale renewables, as well as distributed energy resources. As example, AEP is in the process of decommissioning 11 coal plants, representing approximately 6,500 MW of coal-fired generating capacity as part of its plan to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The company is simultaneously making significant investments in renewables, with a total capacity of close to 4,000 MW by mid-2016.

What Does This All Mean?

The sustainability objectives of government, policymakers, utilities, and their customers are more closely aligned than ever before. In my last blog, I discussed how customer choice and changing customer demands are shifting toward supporting sustainability. States and regulators will continue to discuss how sustainable targets can be met without affecting jobs and the access to safe, reliable, and affordable power. And utilities will continue to evolve to support cleaner, more distributed, and more intelligent energy generation, distribution, and consumption.

Recommended action items for states and utilities include:

  • Understand the possibilities, costs, and full impacts of low-carbon generation and distributed energy resources (energy efficiency, demand response, and others).
  • Implement a workable framework and develop an integrated plan to move toward lower emissions goals, since it’s likely that decreased emission requirements will be in place in the near future.
  • Leverage existing state and neighboring utility designs and efforts to develop joint plans, policies, and goals.
  • Implement (pilot) initiatives that include renewable energy and other low-carbon generation into a reduced emissions framework while also incorporating energy efficiency and distributed generation as resources into the decreased emissions planning process.

This post is the third in a series in which I will discuss each of the megatrends and the impacts (“so what?”) in more detail. My next blog will cover shifting power-generating sources. Stay tuned.

Learn more about our clients, projects, solution offerings, and team at Navigant Energy Practice Overview.

 

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