DOE's Awards $61 Million to 10 'Connected Community' Projects

Oct. 25, 2021
DOE’s “Connected Communities” will equip more than 7,000 buildings with smart controls, sensors, and analytics to reduce energy use, costs and emissions.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $61 million for 10 pilot projects that will deploy new technology to transform thousands of homes and workplaces into energy-efficient buildings.

DOE has labeled these 10 projects as “Connected Communities” that can interact with the electrical grid to optimize their energy consumption, which will decrease their carbon emissions and cut energy costs. This project is aimed at helping achieve the Biden administration's goal of reaching a net-zero carbon economy by providing a model for reducing the building sector’s contribution to the climate crisis. 

“From our homes to workplaces, this groundbreaking, grid-connected building technology will help reduce our impact while cutting energy bills, maximizing convenience, and propelling our efforts to reach a carbon-neutral, clean energy economy by 2050,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “These projects will help universalize technology that can maximize the efficiency and sustainability of America’s nearly 130 million buildings and make significant headway in the fight against climate change.” 

Connected communities of grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEBs) use smart controls, sensors, and analytics to communicate with the electrical grid, reducing the amount of energy they require during periods of peak demand. This capability is used to optimize buildings and distributed energy resources to maintain the comfort of the building occupants, lowers utility bills, and reduces grid system costs. 

A recent DOE study estimated that by 2030, GEBs could save up to $18 billion per year in power system costs and cut 80 million tons of carbon emissions each year—more than the annual emissions of 50 medium-sized coal plants or 17 million cars. DOE’s first two connected communities in Alabama and Georgia have already demonstrated this potential by using approximately 42-44% less energy than today’s average all-electric home.

The 10 projects selected will further demonstrate the capabilities of GEBs across a wider range of technologies, locations, and building types. The teams selected to manage these projects represent a cross-section of the buildings industry that include utilities, local governments, homebuilders, and end-users. Numerous projects plan to bring the economic benefits of GEBs to low-income communities who need it most.

Those selected are:

  • Electric Power Research Institute Inc. (New York City, Seattle, San Diego), which will transform multi-family buildings in housing developments into GEBs, received $5.27M.
  • IBACOS, Inc. (North Carolina), which will deploy a coordinated control program to optimize the energy use of a comprehensive mix of distributed energy resources, received $6.65M.
  • Open Market ESCO Limited Liability Co. (Massachusetts), which will bring the benefits of efficiency, demand flexibility, renewable generation, and energy storage, received $6.65M.
  • PacifiCorp (Utah), which will establish a program to manage solar photovoltaic, batteries, electric vehicle charging in a diverse community of all-electric buildings and a mass transit transportation center, recieved $6.42M.
  • Portland General Electric (Oregon), which will renovate over 500 buildings with numerous energy efficiency measures and connected devices that provide the grid with a range on energy services, recieved $6.65M.
  • Post Road Foundation (Maine and New Hampshire), which will investigate the capacity of a novel Transactive Energy Service System to harmonize communications and optimize energy use, received $6.65M.
  • Slipstream Group Inc. (Wisconsin), which will convert approximately 15 facilities in Madison, Wisconsin into GEBs that connect with nearby electric vehicle charging stations, received $5.18M.
  • Spokane Edo LLC (Washington), which will unlock demand flexibility up to 2.25 MW using flexible loads in residential and commercial buildings augmented by DER, received $6.65M.
  • SunPower Corp. (California), which will build tomorrow’s homes today in two communities of all-electric homes, received $6.65M.
  • The Ohio State University (Ohio), which will investigate the capacity of Ohio State’s existing on-campus connected community to provide essential but overlooked ancillary grid services, received $4.2M.
  • The Connected Communities funding opportunity is led by DOE’s Building Technologies Office in collaboration with the Solar Energy Technologies Office, the Vehicle Technologies Office, the Office of Electricity, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.