Advancing Building and Customer Technologies


Electrification 2020 Track B

Fortnightly Magazine - February 10 2020

There are five sessions in the track B on advancing building and customer technologies at Electrification 2020. But it's so much bigger than that. Because it builds on earlier work as EPRI's Ram Narayanamurthy has been running around the country at regional versions of the coming epic Charlotte conference. He has been setting up conferences in Berkeley and Brooklyn, that you can see in our Picture Energy section of this issue. The 2020 Electrification Conference is going to be a combination of how these bottom up efforts at the regional levels, including San Antonio, converge at the national level.

PUF: What is your role at EPRI?

Ram Narayanamurthy: Right now, I'm the lead for the buildings program at EPRI. A core focus of the building program is the building decarbonization area, which includes electrification, efficiency, flexibility, and alternate fuels. It includes what the technology gaps are, what the application challenges are, how is the workforce impacted, and education. It also gets into the area of customer programs and how the programs are set up to require different incentive structures to enable that electrification.

PUF: In the run up to Electrification 2020 there've been three of these regional Electrification conferences and you were involved in the one in Berkeley and also Brooklyn. Could you tell us what you were doing there?

Ram Narayanamurthy: Sure. My role in both Berkeley and Brooklyn was to lead the development of the technical program and foster partnerships with partners like the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership or NEEP. 

That included setting up the tracks, setting up the sessions, working with the California Energy Commission and UC Berkeley, and working with NEEP. The technical program was structured around the two strands of buildings and transportation electrification, and to highlight aspects including technology, cost, and customer adoption. It was essentially developing the speaker list, inviting the speakers, and getting the sessions lined up.

PUF: How were those three regional conferences or the two you ran?

Ram Narayanamurthy: The one in California was the first regional symposium. The big success was that it brought together a whole spectrum of stakeholders including the government agencies, the California Energy Commission, the California PUC, the agencies from the Northwest, and local governments, which are spearheading a lot of the electrification initiatives, as well as the utilities, along with the outside parties like NRDC and Sierra Club.

There were about four hundred and seventy registered participants. For being the first symposium, just the fact that it created a conversation among so many different stakeholders, was amazing.

The one in New York was in collaboration with NEEP. NEEP is working with the energy efficiency function for all the fourteen states that are part of the Northeast, all the way down to West Virginia, and from Maine to Pennsylvania. The interesting part of the symposium was the multiple perspectives from many different states and local jurisdictions, including the large cities of New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C, and where they stand on electrification. 

Again, a great prospect for most stakeholders and the conversations at both symposia, was the in-depth discussion of what it takes to do electrification. It brought up the big barriers and challenges. Those were barriers like, it's not cost effective for a lot of the property owners or the tenants in places like the Northeast, because of the rates.

It also brought up questions about the readiness of the electric grid. It needs to be upgraded for electrification. It brought up issues like how we transition from the current energy efficiency paradigm to a low carbon paradigm.

PUF: For the Charlotte conference, what do you think will happen as far as the track B and, on buildings? What is going to be there?

Ram Narayanamurthy: The last conference is of course much larger, with a lot more participation from sponsors, exhibitors, and manufacturers. It's going to be five to ten times larger.

The symposia focused on regional issues. What we are trying to do is harmonize them across the country, with our national issues.

The 2020 Electrification Conference is going to be a combination of how all these bottom up efforts at the regional levels converge at the national level. Part of it will be what is the funding strategy for electrification initiatives, how it's taking the next step forward.

It's going from identifying barriers to starting to work toward technology solutions that are upon us.

PUF: In track B on buildings, whether it's new or existing buildings and the electrification, what do you hope people will take away from going to those sessions? What will they learn?

Ram Narayanamurthy: For the participants, we need them to understand new construction, and it's straightforward. The objective is already there. Then it becomes get the hearts and minds.

Electrify it today so that thirty years from now we are not working three times as hard. New buildings need to be addressed today. 

Then on the existing building site, what we want is for people to understand, what are the changes they need to do when you tried to electrify your building, for example, replacing and upgrading panels. We need to understand how to set it up as a part of a customer program, or a part of a larger electrification initiative. We will also see movement from a lot of large commercial customer participation like Microsoft or Google, because they all have targets for carbon production.

We need both the large customers as well as the building contractors to understand what they're going to provide, what technologies are available, and come up with strategies for doing it cost effectively.

PUF: What do you hope to learn, see, and hear from those sessions?

Ram Narayanamurthy: What I hope to see is product providers coming out with new products.

A lot of buildings don't have enough electrical capacity to either add chargers or electrify your building. They're looking at solutions.

That tends to be added onto existing buildings without having to do expensive electrical upgrades. I'm looking for product owners to come out with innovative solutions that enable electrification of existing buildings. What I'm hoping to hear is a recognition from practitioners of the challenges of electrifying existing buildings.

Track B: Advancing Building and Customer Technologies

Session B1: The Next Generation of Space Heating

Heat pump technology continues to advance, offering greater efficiency and higher performance in colder climates. How do we capitalize on these advances for the greatest benefit in both new-built and retrofit scenarios?

Session B2: Heat Pump Water Heaters

Adoption of heat pump water heaters (HPWHs) is a critical component in enabling efficient building electrification. A transition to heat pump technology for water heating will greatly reduce energy consumption in the commercial and residential sectors. This session will discuss current research, development, and deployments of HPWHs as well as present market adoption strategies.

Session B3: Overcoming Cost and Other Barriers in Residential Electrification Opportunities

Residential electrification can be perceived as a cost prohibitive and intrusive endeavor for residential buildings and customers. Therefore, it is important to understand "when" and "where" it makes sense, followed by clear value propositions that lead to actionable approaches to capitalize on these opportunities. This session will bring together experts to discuss analytic methods to enable scalable building electrification.

Session B4: "Smart" is the Word of the Hour — Let's Talk Smart Homes, Smart Buildings and Smart Communities

Low cost sensors, improvements in connectivity and advanced data analytics are enabling smart homes and neighborhoods across the globe. However, the critical opportunity is to truly harmonize customer system automation — ensuring comfort, convenience and control — with the opportunity to leverage these communities as a grid resource to enable efficient electrification. Panelists will discuss learnings from previous demonstrations that can enable smart, efficient, electrified communities at scale.

Session B5: Applicability of Ground-Source Heat Pumps to Electrify Residential Space Heating in the U.S.

Geothermal heat pumps eliminate drop in efficiency and heating capacity at lower ambient temperatures that are associated with air source heat pumps. They continue to provide efficient heating even in cold climates without use of inefficient resistance heat, reducing heating costs and electricity demand on the grid.


Conversations about Electrification 2020 Tracks: