NREL: New Data Set Quantifies How and When Energy Is Used Across All Major U.S. Building Types and Climate Regions

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have released new end-use load profiles for the U.S. building stock, representing all major building types and climate regions.

The data set released today, in collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory, is critical for utility planners, regulators, state energy offices, researchers, and building owners to understand ways to best manage energy use. For example, utilities spend $8 billion per year on energy efficiency, often without knowing whether they are helping or hurting the balance of supply and demand on the electric grid. End-use load profiles can identify which efficiency measures are most valuable to the grid or which energy-consuming activities can be shifted to different times of the day to reduce peak loads that drive utility costs, reduce customer bills, and use clean, renewable energy sources when available.

“Three years of research and collaboration has culminated in a publicly available data set of calibrated and validated synthetic load profiles for U.S. residential and commercial buildings,” said Eric Wilson, NREL senior research engineer in the Building Technologies and Science Center. “Beyond that, the validated ResStock™ and ComStock™ models will be available to estimate energy efficiency and demand response savings load shapes for existing and emerging technologies, which is huge for understanding the impacts of technology deployment.”

Researchers worked with partners such as utilities, regional energy-efficiency organizations, program administrators, and a large technical advisory group to use anonymized hourly load data from 11 utilities and more than 2.3 million electric meters. The data informed updates to hundreds of model inputs that significantly improved the models’ accuracy and usefulness.

“A big part of achieving ambitious energy goals is improving electric grid flexibility,” said David Nemtzow, DOE’s Building Technologies Office director. “This includes shifting electric demand to align with grid needs, which is why accurate and accessible electricity end-use load profiles are essential to reducing and shifting energy use in ways that achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050.”

The end-use load profiles are available in three formats: via a web viewer, as downloadable spreadsheets, and in a detailed format that can be queried with big-data tools. Building energy modelers will also be able to access the OpenStudio® model input files for their own analyses. For utility providers, these resources can be used to estimate the value of energy efficiency, demand response, and other distributed energy resources for a wide range of timescales. Such analysis will guide utility resource and distribution system planning, research and development prioritization, and state and local energy planning and regulation. Additionally, the calibrated models can be a foundation to develop end-use savings shapes that quantify on an hourly basis the difference in energy consumption between a baseline building and a building with an energy-efficiency, electrification, or demand-flexibility measure applied.

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