Grid-Interactive NZEBs


Buildings account for 33 percent of the total electricity consumption in India. An estimated 70 percent (~700-900 million sqm of urban space annually) of the buildings stock required for 2030 is yet to be built. The U.S. Energy Information Administration‚Äôs International Energy Outlook 2017 (IEA 2017) projects that the electricity share of India‚Äôs total commercial energy consumption will continue increasing, from 59% in 2015 to 65% in 2040, displacing some coal consumption. IEA 2017 also projects the residential electricity consumption to increase twice as fast as total residential sector energy use from 2015 to 2040. Electricity‚Äôs share would rise from 46% of the energy delivered to India‚Äôs residences in 2015 to 68% in 2040. Rapid economic growth, rising income, growing population, and urbanization are the contributing factors for the growth of India‚Äôs buildings energy consumption; resulting in increasing dependence on imported fuel, contribute to higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and strain the country’s fossil fuel dependent infrastructure. Countries across the globe are working on two fronts:¬†

  1. Embracing net-zero or near-zero goals as they seek to diminish the energy footprint and carbon emissions of their building stock. Zero strategies typically emphasize taking a systems approach to reduce the overall impact of the resource use cycle i.e. water, energy, material, transport, and waste footprint. However, since intensive energy use is seen as a primary driver for climate change today; net-zero ‚Äúenergy‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúcarbon‚ÄĚ targets are being prioritized.¬†
  2. Transitioning to a decarbonized, decentralized, and digitized grid of the future. This includes revising renewable energy targets to shift the country’s energy mix. A renewable energy prioritized energy mix brings flexibility in the grid. Countries globally are now developing and testing unique business models that cater to the flexibility offered by grid services; including those offered by buildings.¬†

So far, building energy demand and grid services have been distinct discussions, with the only overlapping interface being that of renewable energy. Countries globally are now realizing that buildings are an important last mile connection to the grid of the future, and demand flexibility offered by buildings and equipment is an opportunity untapped. ‚ÄúZero-In‚ÄĚ is a platform that expands the discussion from a singular ‚ÄúNet Zero‚ÄĚ building to ‚ÄúHigh performing, smart, connected and flexible‚ÄĚ developments which have a lower environmental impact.

Zero Energy Buildings in India and Journey so far

In India, it is essential that net-zero goals must be accompanied by robust energy efficiency measures that include a sound climatically responsive passive approach to design, low-energy comfort systems, daylighting and lighting controls, efficient equipment and systems, a design approach that embraces adaptive thermal comfort standards and most importantly user acceptance and behavior modification towards a sufficiency based lifestyle. While implementing minimum energy performance standards for buildings will contribute towards checking the increasing energy demand, net-zero goals are also needed for our future energy security. Additionally, net-zero goals require benchmarking performance, supportive renewable energy policies, demand response ready equipment and a comprehensive smart grid program.

The first Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) International Seminar organized in 2013, in India; witnessed international experts from US, EU and Asia and national experts converging to assess barriers to large scale adoption of NZEBs in India and tested solutions that can be replicated in India with contextual modifications. A NZEB Knowledge Portal was also launched with program partners BEE and a NZEB Alliance was started with active participation from industry experts. Most importantly, NZEB performance indicators were integrated in the updated Energy Conservation Building Code 2017. This was a crucial achievement as it has anchored NZEBs in the foremost building energy efficiency policy framework in India. BEE is continuously working towards promotion of NZEB. As a part of India’s NDC, the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE) aims to strengthen the market for energy efficiency by creating a conducive regulatory and policy regime. It seeks to upscale the efforts to unlock the market for energy efficiency and Net Zero.

Smart Grid Development & Grid Modernization in India

The  Indian  Power  Ministry  released  Smart  Grid  Vision and Road  map  for  India  on  Sept.  10,  2013.  The  Road map  was drafted by the India Smart Grid Task Force with the assistance of India Smart Grid Forum, and spreads over the 12 , 13  and 14   five-year  plan  periods  from  2012  to  2027.  The  vision behind the road map is to transform the Indian power system into a secure, adaptive, sustainable and digitally enabled eco- system that provides reliable and quality energy for all with active participation of stakeholders.

In 2013, the Indian Power Ministry released Smart Grid Vision and Roadmap for India; drafted by the India Smart Grid Task Force with the assistance of India Smart Grid Forum. The vision is to create a secure, adaptive, sustainable, and digitally enabled ecosystem that provides reliable and quality energy for all. The 14th Plan (2022-27) focused on development of smart cities, increasing installation of rooftop solar generation capacity, enhanced renewable energy integration, increasing electrical vehicle penetration, smart meter roll-out and choice to consumers on selection of electricity suppliers. The recent six months have also seen the emergence of real time energy markets, new tariff policies and draft rights of electricity consumers. A definition of a ‚Äúprosumer‚ÄĚ has now been included in the power policies; thereby enabling an environment for demand flexibility.¬†

Role of buildings in grid modernization

The electricity requirements of India have grown tremendously and the demand has been¬† running ahead of¬† supply. The large disparity between electricity demand and availability continues to grow and so does the shortage with regard to peak demand. The¬† country’s¬† plan¬† to¬† provide¬† reliable¬† and¬† affordable power supply¬† to¬† all¬† by¬† rapid¬† electrification¬† while¬† keeping¬† carbon emission within control will put tremendous challenges before the¬† Indian¬† power¬† industry.¬† To¬† meet¬† these¬† challenges¬† with limited¬† conventional¬† energy¬† resources,¬† India¬† needs¬† to¬† put forward efforts in research and development to find renewable substitutes particularly solar and wind. It is¬† also necessary to modernize the existing grid and make it smarter. This will not only reduce the technical and commercial losses but will also reduce carbon footprint. There are many aspects of smartness and¬† each¬† aspect meets¬† only¬† a particular¬† objective.¬† The¬† cost involved¬† in¬† making¬† the grid¬† smarter¬† is very¬† high and¬† hence priorities based¬† on the relative¬† importance of¬† various¬† aspects of the smart grid will have to be decided to achieve them. Installation of smart meters and by pushing demand side management will reduce peak demand & energy losses and hence should be given top priority

As per the Central Electricity Authority, India’s peak energy demand has increased by 35% over the past decade. With increased cooling demand and sale of air-conditioners, some cities are now observing a second peak in the early evening. Further, utilities are facing challenges to upgrade network infrastructure to cater to peak demands, especially in densely populated cities, and are now deploying storage as an intermediary solution. Meanwhile the installed capacity of renewable energy sources continues to increase and as of September 2020, it contributes to 36.2% of the energy mix. And as electrical vehicles and battery storage penetrate, the grid of the future will be subject to more variability of demand and supply. This growing peak electricity demand, multiple peaks, new electricity demand from electrical vehicles, infrastructure constraints, and an increasing share of variable renewable electricity generation are a challenge for the Indian electrical grid. Also, 62% of India’s energy mix today is yet thermal, and these power plants are unable to respond at speed to variable demand. 

As the grid becomes increasingly complex, flexibility in demand plays an important role in maintaining grid reliability, improving energy affordability, and integrating a variety of generation sources. Buildings can provide flexibility by reducing energy waste and balancing energy use during times of peak demand. Grid-interactive, energy efficient buildings can enable demand forecasting and address the load balancing challenge of the grid. Although buildings are the key driver of electricity demand, they can also be a part of the solution to peak demand issues. Demand response may present a cost attractive alternative to avoid or defer network equipment upgrades (e.g. transformers). Dispatchable control can limit demand, especially for areas where the demand is increasing faster than network upgrades can be delivered, thereby avoiding burnouts or load shedding. 

Electrical loads in many buildings are already flexible and through advanced controls can be managed to operate at specific times and at different output levels. Advanced controls and communications would enable buildings to adjust electricity consumption to meet grid needs through controls applied to existing equipment, such as lighting and heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC), along with on-site renewable energy, electric vehicles charging, and electrical storage. These control strategies can change the way a building schedules energy use to avoid high peak load costs and make building operations more resilient. Demand response strategies may include reducing energy consumption, load shifting to another time, modulating the energy use, or even increasing energy consumption to store for later use. The technical potential offered by dispatchable loads is yet to be explored for different contexts in India.

Grid-interactive net zero energy buildings are

  1. Energy Efficient – Highly energy efficient buildings with optimized building design, thermally appropriate walls and windows, high-performance appliances, and equipment to reduce both net energy consumption and peak demand.
  2. Connected – These buildings communicate with the grid and respond to the time dependent needs of the grid.
  3. Smart – Smart buildings that use data analytics to optimally manage loads, occupant preferences and grid requirements.
  4. Flexibility –¬† Building energy loads can be dynamically adjusted and optimized.

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