Smart Building / Smart Grid Interactions

Prof Colin Jones

Buildings are responsible for 40% of the planet’s energy consumption both directly and indirectly. This makes them ideal targets both for economically positive energy efficiency programs and as beneficial actors on the future smart grid. We are studying optimal control methodologies that will both reduce the energy consumption of current and next-generation buildings, as well as enable them to react to grid conditions and offer positive stabilizing energy.


Green Energy Management of Structures

SNSF Project GEMS : 2012 – 2015 

The European Union has set aggressive environmental targets that are to be met by 2020: 20% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, 20% of energy generation to be from renewable sources and a 20% reduction in primary energy use due to efficiency improvements. The first target will drive, among other things, substantially increased production and uptake of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs); the second, greatly increased presence of destabilizing renewable energy sources on the power grid; and the third, necessitate increased investment in efficiency improvements for buildings, which presently account for 40% of total European energy use.

The Green Energy Management of Structures (GEMS) research project will allow building owners to meet this efficiency challenge by making use of the PHEVs expected in the near future as dynamic energy storage elements that augment the building’s own thermal storage capacity and together enable dramatically improved optimal energy management that is not possible using current state-of-the-art building controllers. GEMS will also provide buildings with the opportunity to generate energy trading revenues by leveraging this augmented storage capability along with the massive amounts of forward-looking information that is generally untapped in building management systems today (e.g., forecasts of future weather conditions, forecasts of electricity prices, etc.) Last but not least, GEMS will give buildings the capability to serve as “batteries” on the power grid, helping to mitigate the destabilizing effects of renewable sources and supporting the targeted increase of renewables in the energy mix.



SwissElectric funded project, 2008 – 2010

The OptiControl project “Use of weather and occupancy forecasts for optimal building climate control” is a five-member consortium studying the use of stochastic MPC coupled with additional forward-looking weather predictions in order to minimize energy use in European buildings. The project is now complete, but details can be found on the OptiControl website, or through our publications below.



Building Control Publications

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