Navigant Research Blog

California’s Energy Code Update Benefits Some More Than Others

— May 22, 2018

In a move to reduce energy use by more than 50%, the California Energy Commission (CEC) voted on May 9 to support on a series of reforms designed to require that new homes comply with standards of self-sufficiency. This includes requiring solar—a first globally.

Green Vision Is 2020

The new requirement will take effect on January 1, 2020 and will focus on four areas: residential and non-residential ventilation requirements, non-residential lighting requirements, updated thermal envelope standards, and—what interests me most—smart residential photovoltaic systems.

On the last topic, the CEC aims to “promote installing solar PV systems in newly constructed residential buildings. The systems include smart inverters with optional battery storage.”

The solar requirement is well-timed. The ITC step down will have its first decline in 2020, from 30% to 26%, and that will disappear for residential systems in 2022.

CEC Plans Include DER 

The requirements go beyond solar; the CEC also included other DER technologies in the mix. It also aims to “encourage battery storage and heat pump water heaters that shift the energy use of the house from peak periods to off-peak periods.” This aligns well with previous time-of-use electricity pricing regulations in California with mandates for solar installations.

While the solar industry will benefit from this requirement, some parts of the industry will benefit more than others:

  • OEMs: OEMs will be the clear winners from this initiative. California adds between 70,000 and 100,000 new housing units per year—or an extra demand for solar equipment of between 490 MW and 700 MW (assuming 7 kW systems). This effect will be similar for batteries and smart HVAC and heat pumps. Here we have two groups. Those OEMs that have products and brands that can add value to the property will benefit the most, as they will be able to work with real estate developers to create premium housing. Tesla leads this group, but others like SunPower, LG, and First Solar could benefit as well. The other group will have to compete to create low cost solutions to partner with real estate developers that target the poorer segments of the real estate market, or try to build a recognizable brand.
  • Installers: For installers, the new requirement is not a clear victory. While the extra demand is generally welcomed, in this specific market segment the real estate developers will have the upper hand. Therefore, installers will face deals that sacrifice margin for volume to become sub-contractors. In the medium-term, it’s more likely that real estate developers will build their own teams in charge of DER installations.
  • Financiers: Financiers face the same problem as installers. While the extra demand might bring new deals in which the person that buys the house decides to have a mortgage on the house and a separate loan or lease on the DER installations, the most likely outcome is that mortgages will cover the house and the DER equipment.

An Opportunity for a New Type of Residential DER Company

Initially, the outcome after the CEC energy code reforms does not seem to change for companies involved in installation and financing of solar systems in California, like SunRun or Vivint Solar. They do have a skill that real estate developers do not—the ongoing servicing they offer their customers. Companies with strong servicing arms could sacrifice part or all of their margin in the installation in exchange for long-term servicing contracts and potentially the rights to operate the equipment as an aggregator to offer services to the grid.

 

Trends from Light + Building 2018

— March 29, 2018

When I registered to attend the infamous Light + Building trade show in Frankfurt months ago, I never could have imagined its massive scale. This colossal trade show hosted over 2,700 exhibitors and 220,000 attendees, and featured just about any company you can imagine with stakes in the digitization of lighting design, building management, and energy—from big building and lighting tech incumbents like Siemens, OSRAM, Schneider Electric, Philips Lighting, and Honeywell to smart home and Internet of Things (IoT) startups like ROCKETHOME, frogblue, and Ubie. During the many miles I walked between exhibition halls, I observed several noteworthy trends.

From Products to Solutions

Several of the vendors I spoke with that have traditionally invested in selling products and deploying hardware are transitioning their focus toward broader solutions based on software platforms and services. For example, Philips Lighting announced a new IoT platform called Interact, which allows the company to deliver new data-enabled services to professional customers through lighting. The company also announced the change of its brand name to Signify to highlight its strategic push toward IoT-enabled smart lighting systems (not just because it was required to as part of Philips Lighting’s split from Royal Philips in 2016). OSRAM made a similar announcement at the show with its Lightelligence IoT platform for developers, as did other lighting manufacturers like CREE and Zumtobel Group, each showcasing its own software solutions to support asset tracking, space utilization, and location-based services using data collected from connected lighting sources.

Li-Fi as an Emerging Technology Trend

Other technology trends featured at Light + Building include Light Fidelity (Li-Fi). At the trade show, Philips Lighting also announced that it is now offering Li-Fi-enabled luminaires, which provide broadband internet connection through light waves. Li-Fi is a wireless technology similar to Wi-Fi, though it uses lighting waves instead of radio waves to transmit data. The technology has the potential to bring additional connectivity to IoT devices. The company is piloting the technology with Icade, a French real estate investment company.

Connectivity through Partnerships

Another set of companies working to accelerate connectivity in buildings are Schneider Electric, Danfoss, and Somfy, which announced their partnership at Light + Building. The collaboration creates a connectivity ecosystem for homes, small commercial buildings, and hotels that allows each company’s products to integrate more easily with each other at the controller level or in the cloud through application programming interfaces, making the deployment and interoperability of IoT solutions for buildings less of a barrier. Initially, the ecosystem will manage lighting, heating, and window shutters on a single platform.

Implications

These technology trends, partnerships, and solutions ultimately highlight the importance of IoT and a shift toward platforms and solutions that bring together data and connectivity to increase efficiency and optimization. Whether it be in buildings and lighting or security, health, and energy, this is a trend Navigant Research sees across a variety of industries. This transformation is discussed in relation to the energy industry in Navigant’s latest white paper, Energy Cloud 4.0.

 

A Shifting Lighting Landscape Provides New Opportunities for Vendors

— March 29, 2018

The commercial lighting market is shifting focus from hardware and the production of light sources such as lamps and luminaires to a broader set of solutions that incorporate lighting controls and value-add features beyond illumination. The Internet of Things (IoT) is helping drive this change as the number of connected devices increases and as connectivity is brought to devices that were previously not connected. To address this shift, lighting manufacturers are repositioning themselves in the market to showcase their abilities beyond lighting and traditional lighting controls.

Deepening Capabilities Creates Broader Portfolio Offerings

In the emerging market of IoT lighting solutions, new and expanded technologies are providing a different way to view the capabilities of a lighting system. Vendors can use new use cases to address specific customer challenges beyond increased energy savings such as space utilization, increasing operational efficiencies, improved employee productivity, and enhanced retail customer experience, among others. Companies are leveraging a growing number of technologies to set themselves apart by providing solutions that use these different technologies.

Many companies see value in offering solutions with a breadth of protocols as these can assist a company’s aim to provide tailed solutions for each use case and to future-proof their portfolio. Philips Lighting recently announced the release of luminaires enabled with Light Fidelity (Li-Fi) technology. Li-Fi provides a two-way wireless communication traveling at high speeds, similar to how Wi-Fi uses radio waves to transmit data, but instead relies on light waves. Icade, the French real estate investment company, is piloting this technology in its office in Paris, France.

Navigant Research’s research brief, Visible Light Communication, discusses the origin of Li-Fi technology, which was first demonstrated by Professor Harald Haas during a TED Talk in July of 2011. The technology has not gained much traction in the commercial lighting market since then, but has potential to garner more attention with Philips Lighting’s bold decision to pioneer this technology with its office portfolio. Philips Lighting recently had several other announcements that are chronicled by my colleague Paige Leuschner in her recent blog, “Trends from Light + Building 2018.”

Expanding Capabilities through Acquisition

Acuity Brands, Inc., another leading lighting manufacturer, recently acquired building analytics company Lucid Design Group, Inc. The acquisition will help expand Acuity’s already robust IoT lighting solution portfolio that includes the company’s sensory network of luminaires, components, and edge devices that are enabled with Atrius and feature advanced sensing capabilities. Lucid’s data and analytics software as a service-based platform, BuildingOS, provides building owners, operators, and occupants the ability to gain insights into building operations in order to increase employee productivity and operational efficiency. Lucid’s capabilities will assist Acuity’s strategy of increasing IoT capabilities by connecting the company’s IoT solutions with broader integrated building data.

New Opportunities

These two lighting powerhouses have demonstrated the opportunities available in the market for new solution offerings to expand IoT capabilities with lighting at the center of an intelligent building’s infrastructure. Philips Lighting and Acuity are not alone in pushing the boundaries of lighting system capabilities. The lighting industry is seeing many incumbent lighting companies seize the opportunity to expand their portfolios to align with the shifting market and new startups looking to make a place for themselves in the growing IoT ecosystem.

 

Market Heats Up for IoT Energy Management Solutions

— February 1, 2018

Managing energy grids has grown ever more complex as the number of connecting devices has risen sharply. Millions of two-way communicating smart meters, pieces of advanced substation automation equipment, and distributed generation assets have come online in recent years, creating an intricate Internet of Things (IoT) network that can challenge even the best of grid managers. Connecting all these devices is a challenge, and is by no means trivial.

How Best to Organize and Interpret Data from Connected Energy?

The real test comes when trying to organize, make sense of, and glean valuable insights from the huge data volumes generated by these IoT devices and sensors. From there, the objective becomes turning those insights into useful and lasting applications for today and tomorrow. Solutions vendors have worked hard to meet their grid customers’ need for advanced technological tools to manage the data and applications. Lately, the vendors have developed some new offerings.

Platforms for Smart Cities and Utilities

Landis+Gyr launched its Gridstream Connect IoT platform, which is aimed at utility, smart city, and consumer applications. The platform is designed to integrate a variety of smart devices and utilize various communication protocols, including radio frequency mesh, LoRa, and cellular. The platform’s IPv6-based architecture can work independently with third-party devices and software to control street lights, solar inverters, EV charging stations, environmental sensors, and an array of distribution assets. The overarching idea is to provide utilities a way to leverage sensor technology at the grid edge for smart community and smart home applications, while also laying a foundation for future distribution strategies.

IoT Analytics

SAS and Trilliant joined forces to create a harmonized system that targets analytics for IoT. Under the agreement, SAS will contribute its event stream processing capabilities for structured and unstructured data, and provide machine learning technology for event detection, distributed energy resources optimization, and revenue protection. The SAS pieces will be matched with data from Trilliant’s real-time, multi-technology, multi-application networking platform. The two firms are already working jointly with the town of Cary, North Carolina, where they are in the middle of deploying analytics-based applications for street lighting, with the goal of improving public safety and boosting energy efficiency throughout the town.

Predictive Maintenance Software Solutions

ABB unveiled its Ability Ellipse software solution, which is designed to help utilities take a more proactive approach to predictive maintenance. The Ability Ellipse software unifies the functionality of ABB’s enterprise asset management, workforce management, and asset performance management packages. The software suite enables customers to better optimize asset utilization, and reduce equipment failures and system outages. Ability Ellipse is the latest offering in the firm’s Ability family, which embeds business processes and leverages real-time equipment data and IoT to connect predictive analytics and asset management systems to mobile workers in the field.

And More

These three examples of the latest solutions are by no means the only ones in the market. Competitors like Itron and Siemens come to mind. Yet these latest moves by the above vendors signify that current tools are inadequate to harness the growing complexity of energy grids. As the digital transformation of energy markets continues, grid managers will need these types of advanced software solutions to seize the opportunities awaiting them as they forge the emerging grid of tomorrow. Without them, the opportunities will be lost, or upstarts will move in with advanced tools and disrupt the incumbents.

 

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