03 19, 2024

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A building automation system (BMS) combines various building systems to enable proactive and efficient management of building infrastructure and operations. Companies can consolidate, automate, and simplify their building’s operations processes and energy control systems. Many companies initially adopt building automation to manage energy usage in their buildings more effectively. However, a BMS can also unlock additional opportunities – like energy efficiency and revenue-earning opportunities in demand response programs.

A growing number of commercial and industrial companies are recognizing the benefits of automation in reducing the labor involved in participating in demand response. Companies can streamline and simplify how they participate in demand response programs by automating energy reduction (curtailment) strategies, mainly through building management systems. A BMS also increases their ability to participate without negatively impacting their day-to-day operations, enabling them to earn more with less manual effort.

Why is automation essential to unlock the full potential of demand response?

For certain companies, participating in demand response dispatches can be highly labor-intensive – or nearly impossible – without automation. When the grid operator calls upon them to reduce energy consumption, some companies rely on manual interventions that require employees to halt their regular tasks and navigate the building – or even travel to multiple locations to enact their curtailment plan. 

This inefficiency not only hampers their potential earnings in demand response but sometimes prevents organizations from participating altogether. It also diverts employees from their essential day-to-day tasks.

In addition, companies cannot get the most value from their energy flexibility – the ability to reduce energy use or shift that usage to different times of the day – without automation. They are leaving money on the table by losing access to fast-response and high-frequency demand response programs, which are very lucrative due to the service they provide to the grid. These programs require automation to participate because action is needed quickly and frequently – it would be impossible to enact a curtailment plan manually.

What if you could participate in demand response and not even have to lift a finger?

How a BMS orchestrates demand response participation

A building management system (BMS) unlocks opportunities for every business operation. This level of automation is instrumental in optimizing performance during demand response dispatches, expanding access to more lucrative demand response programs, responding to dispatches occurring outside regular working hours, and ultimately increasing earnings through effective participation in demand response initiatives:

  • Reduces the need for manual intervention: Many companies do not want their employees to step away from core responsibilities to manually implement demand response curtailment strategies. With automation, employees can remain focused on their day-to-day tasks, even during demand response events.
  • Improves demand response dispatch performance: By enabling a company to respond promptly and with minimal effort during demand response dispatches, automation improves demand response performance and allows for more consistent revenue generation.
  • Increases demand response earning potential: Many companies can increase their curtailment goal – and thus, their earnings – by using automation to take on more tasks.
  • Opens access to new fast-response programs: Fast-response demand response programs can be lucrative because of their quicker response requirements. However, many companies can’t access them (and the accompanying revenue) because their processes don’t allow for a quick manual response. Automation can make it possible to participate. 

Automated Demand Response (ADR) unlocks these capabilities. Leveraging automated scripts makes it possible for companies to never “lift a finger” to participate in demand response. The entire demand reduction is pre-determined and can be automatically triggered when the grid operator calls on sites to participate in a demand response event. 

It’s important to note that companies can still retain the ability to opt out of dispatches when needed due to production constraints, safety concerns, or other important reasons.

Here’s how it works:

  1. An OpenADR (OADR) script is added to the BMS. Your BMS provider or Enel can do this for you.
  2. Companies can program their devices to respond to demand response events automatically, ensuring they optimize their energy usage in alignment with grid conditions.
  3. Companies receive fully automated signals that initiate their pre-programmed demand response curtailment strategies – they can opt out of dispatches if needed.

Would you rather?

As a practical example, here is a typical curtailment plan we at Enel recommend for a cold storage facility. These assets offer a large amount of flexibility that cold storage facilities can monetize through demand response. 

Would you want to manage these assets manually when called upon by the grid to participate in a demand response event, or would you prefer your BMS to orchestrate them automatically?

Refrigeration (60-75% of load)

  1. Pre-cool in the morning or evening on days that are likely to be peak load days.
  2. Allow space temps to drift during an event by adjusting temperature set points. Shutdowns can be included, but ensure site resources are available.
  3. Target areas with high solar load to make the most significant impact, usually on the east and west sides.
  4. Reduce or eliminate unconditioned air infiltration at dock openings and cooler/freezer doors.
  5. Be cognizant of product thermal mass and its impact on cooling loads.
  6. Avoid part-loading compressors and condensers, and shut down equipment where possible.
  7. Manually lock out electric defrost systems during events.

Lighting (10-25% of load)

  1. Turn off portions or all lighting in certain areas of the warehouse. Test areas for feasibility or total light shutdowns.
  2. Suggest office areas move to task lighting for events.
  3. Turn off hallway, restroom, and all other non-occupied space lighting.
  4. Where controls exist, dim fixtures.
  5. Ensure exterior lighting controllers are functional, as they typically fail in the ON position for safety.
  6. Set up “Demand Response” schedules in the central EMS system.
  7. Turn off decorative lighting (wall wash, artwork illuminations, etc.).

HVAC (5-15% of load)

  1. Raise temperature set points in offices, conference rooms, breakrooms, and all other non-essential areas.
  2. Pre-cool areas during the morning or evening.
  3. Confirm system air balance so the system does not bring in too much outside air.
  4. Set up “Demand Response” schedules in the central EMS system.
  5. Turn off destratification fans.

Battery Charging (3-10% of load)

  1. Shift battery charging times away from peak load hours (noon to 8 pm).
  2. Limit the number of chargers to what is necessary.
  3. Pre-charge equipment if day-ahead notices are sent out for potential events.

Misc. Plug Loads (2-5% of load)

  1. Turn off plug loads.
  2. Turn off TVs.
  3. Turn off printers, scanners, shredders, and other non-critical office appliances.
  4. Turn off decorative interior and exterior fixtures (fountains).

Exhaust (1-5% of load)

  1. Temporarily turn off exhaust fans where acceptable.
  2. Temporarily turn off exhaust fans in restrooms.
  3. Temporarily turn off exhaust fans in battery charging areas.
  4. Temporarily turn off exhaust fans in locker rooms.

Don’t have a BMS, or looking to upgrade?

Enel North America has an innovative financing option that leverages the value of demand response. 

Here’s how it works:

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

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


Leveraging building automation systems to manage demand response participation is vital to increasing flexibility. These systems open new doors, whether that’s finally allowing companies to participate in the more lucrative fast or frequent demand response programs – or just giving them peace of mind when they are called upon to participate in demand response events throughout the season that they will not have to execute their plans manually. 

Contact our team today to learn more about building automation systems and how they can help your company realize new levels of operational efficiency, boost performance, and unlock more demand response revenue. You can also read more about building automation systems and other automation strategies in our eBook, “Building automation into your energy strategy.”

Learn more about advancing your energy strategy by leveraging our integrated energy solutions.