11 28, 2023

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A building management system (BMS), also referred to as a building automation system (BAS), is a distributed control system that combines different building systems like heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). It functions as a computer network to monitor and control various electronic and mechanical systems in a building, communicating across different platforms and languages. 

These systems enable businesses to consolidate, automate and simplify their building’s operations processes and energy control systems. Many organizations initially adopt building automation to more effectively manage energy usage in their buildings, but a BMS can also unlock additional opportunities –  like energy efficiency and revenue-earning opportunities in demand response programs.

What are the different types of automation systems?

There are several types of building automation and management systems, and the control type you’ll need will depend on your specific industry and requirements. Below are several examples that we see organizations use to help control their facilities:

  • HVAC Control: Regulates heating, cooling, and ventilation to ensure a more comfortable environment and better air quality.
  • Lighting Control: Adjusts lighting using sensors and timers based on occupancy or time of day to avoid energy waste from lighting unoccupied spaces.
  • Building Energy Management Systems (EMS): Enhances efficiency and reduces cost by monitoring and controlling energy usage.
  • Building Management and Control System (BMCS): Centralizes energy management by combining various systems into one interface.

How do organizations use automation with demand response?

An increasing number of commercial and industrial organizations are considering automation – or actively investing in automation – to improve their operational efficiency and reduce the labor involved in participating in demand response. Demand response (DR) is an energy flexibility solution used by utilities and grid operators to help balance the supply and demand of electricity on the grid. They do this by asking organizations to reduce or modify their energy usage at times of grid stress in exchange for payments. Leveraging automation in curtailment strategies increases an organization’s ability to participate in demand response programs without negatively impacting operations, enabling them to earn more with less effort.  

For certain facilities, unless they employ automation through building management systems, participating in demand response dispatches can be very labor-intensive or in some instances nearly impossible. When demand response companies like Enel call upon organizations to reduce energy, some must have employees stop what they are doing to enact their curtailment plan. 

While this is a simple task in some facilities, others will need those employees to quickly move around a large building or even drive to multiple locations to enact the curtailment plan. This inefficiency limits their ability to maximize earnings in demand response and, in some cases, even prevents organizations from participating altogether. Even more important is the fact that it takes employees away from their day-to-day activities.

What industries should consider automation?

There are many types of businesses today that are adding building automation or already leveraging it to optimize their energy usage while minimizing the effort involved:

  • In food manufacturing, building automation is used to control production or processing lines.
  • In cold storage operations, automation is used to monitor and control fridge temperatures. 
  • In farming and agriculture, automation is essential to easily control pumps that may need to be turned off quickly. 
  • In commercial offices and retail stores, a BMS is commonly used to help with managing items as simple as lighting and HVAC, all with easy-to-use controls.
  • In agriculture, automation is used to control well pumps and other pumping and watering related activities. 
  • In water management, automation helps to control municipal water pumps including WTP and WWTP systems, in addition to well pumps. 
  • In industrial organizations, automation can be used to control production or processing lines at industrial sites. 

How does a BMS benefit demand response and overall operations?

Upgrading or installing a building management system opens opportunities for every type of operation and business. Automation also helps facilities perform better in demand response dispatches, allows access to more demand response programs, and increases earnings through demand response participation. Below are a few of the ways leveraging building automation can boost your participation in energy flexibility programs like demand response while also simplifying your overall operational experience:

Reduce the need for manual intervention: Many organizations do not want their employees to have to step away from core responsibilities to manually implement demand response curtailment strategies. With automation, employees may be able to remain focused on their day-to-day tasks, even during demand response events.

Improve demand response dispatch performance: By enabling a business to respond promptly and with minimal effort during demand response dispatches, automation improves demand response performance and allows for more consistent revenue generation.

Increase demand response earning potential: Many organizations can increase their curtailment goal – and thus, their earnings – by using automation to take on more tasks.

Open access to new fast response programs: Fast demand response programs can be lucrative because of their quicker response requirements, but many organizations can’t access those programs and the accompanying revenue because their business processes don’t allow them to manually respond that quickly. Automation can make it possible to participate in these programs.

Beyond demand response, there are a variety of operational benefits for organizations that adopt a building management system:

  • Improved energy efficiency 
  • Reduced energy costs
  • Site optimization through simplified processes
  • Faster operations and response time

Is installing automation expensive?

Some organizations may think that implementing building automation will require high upfront costs, but this is not necessarily the case, especially with modern financing options. 

It’s true that the cost of a BMS can be high, though the final price depends on a variety of factors (square footage, complexity of operations, automation needs, and more). Nevertheless, it can be around $250,000 for larger sites, a price which may create a financial barrier. Depending on the size and need of your facility, that price tag could make installing a BMS out of the question in certain circumstances – unless you leverage financing. 

Fortunately, Enel North America has an innovative financing option that may be right for your organization. Here’s how it works:

  1. Enel pays the upfront costs of a BMS so you have zero upfront cost. 
  2. Enel works directly with an established Tier 1 distributor to install the BMS at your facility. 
  3. You pay back the BMS costs through your demand response earnings until the entire system is paid off, which typically takes 2 years or less.

This near-zero risk financing option offers major benefits to your organization – you can own a building management system and reap the benefits of building automation immediately before earning additional revenue in the near-term. 

How to get started

Enel can help your organization with building automation and maximizing the value of your energy strategy and demand response participation. Enel is the world’s largest demand response provider, and we have the experience and expertise to help you optimize your efforts. Contact our demand response team today to find out how you can enroll in demand response in your region and amplify your participation with a BMS.

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