Energy, Climate & Environment

How can building loads help us achieve a low carbon electric grid?

Our homes and buildings consume huge amounts of energy – up to 40 percent of all energy use in the U.S.  Research at Berkeley Lab has greatly boosted energy efficiency in buildings, from new lighting technologies and materials to refrigerators that cut energy use in half. But our energy systems are changing. Our challenge now is not just how much energy we use, but when we use it. We need to shift loads to times when there are plenty of renewables in our electric system, and reduce load at other times of the day. At Berkeley, we’re developing technologies to get our energy production and our energy consumption talking to each other. Appliances and cooling systems, for example, can receive automated signals and reduce or shift the timing of electricity use. Thermostats with “Rush Hour Rewards” cut air conditioning use after sunset when demand on the electrical grid peaks. And sensors will enable us to see -- and control -- our energy use in real time, not just read our energy bill at the end of the month.

Keywords/Tags: energy production, energy consumption, energy efficiency

Mary Ann PietteMary Anne Piette

Mary Ann Piette is the Director of the Building Technology and Urban Systems Division and of the Demand Response Research Center at Berkeley Lab. She develops and evaluates low-energy technologies for buildings and has authored over 150 peer reviewed papers on efficiency. She specializes in dynamic integrated controls and responsive buildings for a clean, reliable and affordable electric grid. Read more.