Demand Response Industry Simplifies OpenADR Communication Protocol


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When the OpenADR Alliance rolled out its standard second-generation communications protocol, the organization estimated that three types would meet industry needs.

It turns out that the industry mostly wants only one.

The OpenADR 2.0 standard, which is a communications protocol for automated demand response, was initially to be released in three versions: OpenADR 2.0a, 2.0b and 2.0c. The first two are published and products that use them can be certified as compliant. But after releasing 2.0a, the organization found that “utilities primarily wanted 2.0b,” said Barry Haaser, chief executive of the OpenADR Alliance.

The first protocol was designed for simpler devices, such as residential thermostats, but utilities preferred the extended functionality of 2.0b, which enables improved event and price scheduling and more robust real-time reporting. The acceptance of OpenADR 2.0b shows the evolution of demand response in recent years, as it has moved to a more sophisticated real-time operation, although it is still a long way from managing the 24/7 demand that some are considering.

When 2.0b was released last summer, many major demand response players announced that they had compliant products, including EnerNOC, Honeywell, Hitachi, IPKeys, Fujitsu, and AutoGrid. At DistribuTECH 2014 in San Antonio, Haaser reported that 33 products had been certified for OpenADR 2.0b.

The next step, which was always more of a long-term game, was 2.0c. But for now, the third protocol has been put aside. “It’s just a placeholder now,” Haaser said.

The obstacles are not technical, but rather related to the market.

For ISOs and utilities who want to take advantage of the standard, 2.0b seems to offer all the functionality they need. That could change in the future as demand management becomes more sophisticated, Haaser said. He highlighted transactive energy, which is still in its infancy, as an area that may eventually require a more sophisticated standard than 2.0b.

Most of the certified products have been developed to allow buildings to automatically lose kilowatts on demand when receiving the standardized signal. The advantage of automated demand response is that utilities and customers can receive real-time information on the amount of load being shed. At DistribuTECH, Comverge and EnerNOC both announced the release of new products that give utilities more options for obtaining real-time information from existing demand response assets.

In Japan, where many buildings and the power grid as a whole are already much more automated than in the United States, OpenADR is quickly establishing itself as the standard of choice for the burgeoning demand response market. The Alliance has fifteen members in Japan and is carrying out test projects with Waseda University for the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Many US-based companies that are deploying OpenADR 2.0b certified projects have partnered with their Japanese counterparts to develop demand response offerings. Along with domestic Japanese companies, EnerNOC, Comverge, Schneider Electric, IBM Japan, AutoGrid and others are all involved in various projects in 2014.

Some members of the OpenADR Alliance had previously wondered how far the standard could move the industry forward. But at least in Japan, the automated communication standard is helping move the market forward faster than it otherwise would have.

“It opens up markets and increases flexibility,” said Fielder Hiss, vice president of product management at EnerNOC. “There is no momentum tidal wave, but there is momentum.”

Japan is not the only region exploring OpenADR. Other Asian countries, such as Korea, Taiwan, and China, have shown some interest, and Haaser said there are downloads across Europe as well.

In the United States, OpenADR is now in use far beyond California, where it was first developed and adopted. Not only is the platform used by utilities across the country, it also sends signals to more than just buildings. OpenADR 2.0b is also used by Greenlots for its SKY smart charging platform for electric vehicles. The concept of using electric vehicles for network services is still in its early stages of development, but pilot projects are underway at PJM and ERCOT.

It’s not just commercial vehicles and buildings that increasingly depend on real-time demand response. At this year’s DistribuTECH, the response to residential demand also featured new offerings that allow real-time visibility and automated controls.

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