PEER: A Certification Program Helps Buildings Be Better Grid Citizens

PEER power certification

During the last 10 years, the relationship between buildings and the energy grid has gotten significantly more complex and continues to evolve. Traditionally, electricity for buildings was generated in a power station, sent along transmission lines to a substation, continued along distribution lines to an electricity meter and then made available to the building. Simply put, electricity traveled from point A to point B.

Today’s growing demand for electricity coupled with new technologies and innovation has brought more choices to the marketplace and more options for buying and using power. No longer is electricity flowing in one direction. Now because of distributed energy resources (DER), buildings can be designed to generate their own electricity, store it, and send it to other buildings or even back to grid. It’s a new energy paradigm and it’s giving designers, facility managers and owners an opportunity to decarbonize their buildings.

Electricity production is a major source of carbon emissions in the U.S. The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the electricity, or power, sector generates the second highest amount of greenhouse-gas emissions, primarily because of the burning of fossil fuels. Meanwhile, buildings are consuming 70 percent of the electricity in the U.S., per the Washington-based U.S. Energy Information Administration. It means the relationship between these two industries is a key factor in mitigating the contribution of buildings to climate change.

Designing for Distributed Energy Resources

Energy-efficiency retrofits play an important role in reducing carbon emissions across the building sector. The retrofit industry itself is projected to be in the $20-billion range, and global initiatives like the Investor Confidence Project (ICP) are helping to scale investment and increase confidence in the expected environmental and financial returns of efficiency proj- ects. (Learn more about ICP in retrofit’s May-June 2018 issue, page 20.) But energy efficiency is only one part of this new energy paradigm.

PEER program leaders discuss certification and efforts being made to create more resilient, reliable and sustainable power systems in front of an onsite microgrid at Greenbuild 2017. PHOTO: U.S. Green Building Council

PEER program leaders discuss certification and efforts being made to create more resilient, reliable and sustainable power systems in front of an onsite microgrid at Greenbuild 2017. PHOTO: U.S. Green Building Council

As renewables and alternative energy grow, they’re creating new supply and demand patterns, putting excess pressure on the grid, a challenge that is infamously captured and visualized in the Duck Curve. Buildings can help address this challenge and be better grid citizens by incorporating DER, which can achieve several key objectives:

  • Reduce overall energy use.
  • Decrease peak demand.
  • Improve load factors.
  • Shape a building’s load curve.
  • Decrease energy demand for short intervals, or automated demand response.
  • Shift peak demand.
  • Generate renewable energy.
  • Store energy.

Working toward these objectives will position buildings as a better asset on the grid—a building that is capable of being responsive to the operating conditions of the grid at distribution and transmission levels and adjusting its energy-use profile to provide the grid operators with reliability, resilience and renewable integration opportunities.

Leading the Way

As buildings become more responsive to grid conditions, standards for assessing progress and performance of pieces of the energy system have emerged. PEER is a certification program that evaluates, measures and improves power system and electricity infrastructure performance. Modeled after the Washington-based U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED green building program, PEER evaluates the performance of energy generation, transmission and distribution through a certification program. PEER recognizes leaders in these sectors that demonstrate improvements in environmental performance, day-to-day reliability and overall resiliency.

The certification program works for all project types, including critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and data centers, as well as corporate campuses, transit systems, private microgrids, utilities and more. Like LEED, PEER was designed to grow with the market and create a global framework for defining high-performing power systems. PEER is a straightforward rating system for evaluating performance outcomes across four main categories:

    RELIABILITY AND RESILIENCY: Focuses on preventing interruptions, minimizing downtime, and monitoring and recording information related to interruptions in service.
    ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND ENVIRONMENT: Focuses on quantifying and optimizing energy generation and transmission for the triple bottom line of people, profit and planet.
    OPERATIONS, MANAGEMENT AND SAFETY: Focuses on the efficient operations and management of energy systems, considering risk for workers and customers.
    GRID SERVICES: Addresses the implementation of programs and technologies that integrate the supply and demand side of energy, including automation, demand response and incentives.

For buildings, in particular, PEER values technologies and strategies that enable responsible grid citizenship. Projects are able to demonstrate energy cost savings, as well as a reduction in energy waste, interruptions and emissions through a variety of strategies, including:

  • 1. Islandability, which describes a facility’s ability to disconnect itself from the electric grid and continue to operate in some capacity. This usually requires some combination of onsite generation, storage and distribution infrastructure.
  • 2. Renewable Integration
  • 3. District Energy
  • 4. Automation
  • 5. Undergrounding
  • 6. Storage
  • 7. Load Shifting
  • 8. Demand Response

PEER announced several new certifications in 2018, including NYU Langone Health, one of the leading hospitals in the U.S.; Delhi Metro Rail Corp. in India, the first transit project in the world to certify; Montgomery County Public Safety Headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., the first project to certify in the state; and the city of Glasgow, Ky., the second municipal utility to certify. The guide and scorecard that outline how projects achieve certification are available to download. More about these specific projects is available on PEER’s website.

About the Author

Brendan Owens
Brendan Owens is a senior vice president at the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C. He oversees strategic development and integration of rating systems, such as LEED and PEER.

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