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Analysis & Projections

Trends in Commercial Whole-Building Sensors and Controls

Release date: December 15, 2020

Sensor and control innovations—such as connected thermostats, wired and wireless sensors, whole-building submetering, building energy management systems (BEMS), and automated fault detection and diagnosis (AFDD)—can lower the demand for end-use energy services such as space heating, space cooling, ventilation, and lighting in buildings. Although U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) analyses have developed approaches for representing efficient building envelopes and appliances in the National Energy Modeling System (NEMS), EIA has not previously analyzed sensors and controls in NEMS.

To inform future modeling of energy management technologies in the NEMS Commercial Demand Module (CDM), EIA contracted with Leidos, Inc., to characterize six sensor and control technology categories:

  • Lighting controls
  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) controls
  • Automated fault detection and diagnosis
  • Building energy management systems software
  • Wired and wireless sensors and sensor networks
  • Whole-building electric submetering

The report begins with a brief technical overview of selected key sensor and control technologies within each category. Drawing from secondary literature, Leidos, Inc. estimates the share of existing floorspace and incorporates key technologies in the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) base year for 2012 and for 2018 (the next CBECS base year). A subsequent Leidos, Inc. analysis projects the share of floorspace expected to incorporate these technologies and estimates the associated energy impacts for the years 2020, 2030, 2040, and 2050. Along with this quantitative analysis, the report describes the quality of technological advancements and market trends for each key sensor and control technology.

Finally, the report recommends an approach for modeling sensors and controls in NEMS. The approach aggregates end-use service demand across fuels and then divides by square feet of floorspace to derive service demand intensity (SDI). Sensor and control technologies then reduce aggregate SDI according to the estimated percentage reduction in service demand attributable to each control technology and the projected penetration of the control technology. The forthcoming Annual Energy Outlook 2021 (AEO2021) has incorporated this approach.

The report, Trends in Commercial Whole-Building Sensors and Controls, is available in Appendix A. When referencing the report, cite it as a report by Leidos, Inc., prepared for the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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