Can “smart buildings” drive down power prices?

By Jarrod
3 Min Read

Experts say changing how and when buildings use their energy throughout the day can massively slash electricity bills and greenhouse emissions. 

While “smart buildings” might conjure up futuristic images of solar panel-clad skyscrapers and AI-controlled security systems, new research from the Australia Institute says that pocketing savings on power is actually “pretty simple”.

In their latest report, Buildings as Batteries, researchers found that simply shifting one-third of peak electricity consumption to the middle of the day could save up to $1.7 billion and cut emissions by 2,780,000 tonnes every year. 

According to Executive Director Dr. Richard Denniss, it’s not the supply of power that’s driving your power bill up – it’s daily demand. 

“We have a supply and demand problem in the Australian electricity market,” he said. 

“Australia has lots of cheap, clean renewable energy supply in the middle of the day, but there is lots of demand towards the end of the day when we rely on electricity from coal and gas.

“Luckily for everyone except the owners of the coal fired power stations, it is relatively easy to shift a lot of electricity demand from late afternoon to the middle of the day.”

The institute’s research found that, while every Aussie could benefit from changing their power usage, this would be especially useful for big commercial buildings, which could take better advantage of the cheap, clean power that is so abundant in the middle of the day.

“By thinking creatively and changing the demand pattern of large Australian buildings to match the times when electricity supply is bountiful, cheap, and low in carbon emissions, we can have a major impact with relatively low levels of intervention and investment,” added Denniss.

The findings come only months before the Australian Energy Regulator is set to announce their network prices on July 1st. Last year, prices increased by around 5 per cent to 10 per cent. 

Dr. Craig Roussac, Chief Executive Officer at Buildings Alive, says the solutions to the country’s power troubles are already here. Aussies just need to embrace them. 

“If we don’t harness the potential of smart, grid-interactive buildings, Australians will pay the price through higher network costs, more expensive electricity and increased carbon pollution,” he said.

“Australia has had world-leading building efficiency ratings systems in the past, but they have not evolved. Most buildings can double their energy demand at times of the day when it’s abundant and halve it when networks are constrained. 

“All electricity is not created equal and our markets, incentive structures, and ratings systems should be designed to reflect that fact. 

“Only then will the significant potential of smart buildings to ease pressure on the grid at peak times, while reducing both costs and carbon emissions, be realised.”

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By Jarrod
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.

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