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BSRIA: monitoring potential key for smart energy HVAC innovation

Industry body says that maintenance benefits could be deciding factor for stepping up adoption of web-connected technologies

Energy regulator Ofgem has outlined new approaches for smart energy initiatives that could drive innovation among heating and ventilation suppliers for cheaper, more efficient system maintenance, argues industry body BSRIA.

Ofgem and the UK government have this week published findings detailing aims to introduce smart energy systems and technology to try and allow individuals and businesses to better manage and potentially profit from overhauling management of their power needs.

The report considers how best to break down current barriers in adapting new business models for controlling systems, such as heating technology in the UK energy market, as well as the potential implications for cyber security and demand management.

This includes a focus on the expanded adoption of batteries that could be charged during periods of lower demand, or making use of rooftop solar panels to alternatively cater for power needs.

Among other considerations of the findings for heating and cooling is the concept of ‘demand shifting’, whereby conserved energy can be stored for use at times of peak demand and cost.

Henry Lawson, BSRIA’s Senior Market Research Consultant for Worldwide Market Intelligence, noted that a key driver for stepping up adoption and investment in smart energy initiatives for heating and cooling is the trend for networked HVAC systems that provide detailed information on system performance.

Lawson said that the potential up take in use and introduction of smart energy plans in heating and cooling systems and chilling units was expected to be driven by connected building controls that could allow organisations to better monitor performance and demand needs.

In the case of chain commercial properties such as retail outfits or restaurants, where an on-site HVAC specialist may prove to be overkill, he added that a networked monitoring approach could allow for specialised control of heating and cooling needs at a more individual property level.

The use of real-time data generated could be managed centrally or outsourced to service providers to overhaul the cost and efficiency of how systems need to function.

From the perspective of HVAC equipment, Lawson said that demand reduction was seen as an area where there is already ongoing work by industry players.

Outside of large powers consumers, Lawson also noted the opportunity for demand aggregation, whereby individuals and smaller organisations can agree to pool energy that can be returned to the grid for commercial value.

Cyber security

Among case studies for the potential benefits of ensuring a “smart, more flexible” energy system in the UK, Ofgem’s findings considered technologies such as a storage systems for electronic heating that could help address fuel poverty concerns in social housing.

The use of heating controls that can be accessed by smartphone, as well as special tariffs built around the technology, was viewed as a direct means of improving residential comfort and bills.

As with emerging web-connected technologies and control systems, Ofgem noted that cyber security risks would be another key consideration, especially in the case of electric heating. The issue was therefore being considered as part of the government’s wider cyber security agenda.

“Amongst a body of work engaging with stakeholders across the government and industry, the government commissioned work to assess the magnitude of the smart cyber security risk up to 2030, including consideration of the increasing levels of smart electric vehicle charging and electrical heating,” said Ofgem. “This work is already informing the government’s work to address cyber security risks in a smart energy system, for example on technical standards for smart appliances, and consideration of industry systems, including those used by aggregators.”

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