GridPoint recently attended CERAWeek by S&P Global, nicknamed the energy industry’s Super Bowl. The event brought together world leaders from every corner of energy who presented insights, strategies, and considerations on the quickly changing landscape. This year’s theme of the energy trilemma was apparent – how do we balance energy security, transition, and affordability?

Even with a global movement to address climate change, we are simply behind when it comes to meeting our collective goals. There is an untapped resource in commercial buildings, which are frequently overlooked, and they need to be a key part of the bigger picture. Let’s explore buildings and four other key takeaways from CERAWeek 2023.

1. Buildings—especially the smaller ones—step into the spotlight

The current built environment is responsible for nearly 30% of global energy consumption and over 90% of buildings in the U.S. are under 50,000 square feet. Additionally, 30% of the energy used in commercial buildings is wasted, forcing building owners and operators to take a closer look at consumption.

HVAC and lighting represent a significant portion of fixed costs for commercial facility owners and operators, creating an opportunity to improve energy efficiency, reduce consumption and strengthen resiliency. It really comes down to the more you know. By better understanding the energy profile of a building (through smart technology), facility managers can maximize efficiency, minimize risk, and identify future opportunities for improvement.

2. Both supply AND demand are important to the cause

Efforts to decarbonize our energy supply are appropriately focused today on renewable generation technologies like wind and solar. Beyond that, the Inflation Reduction Act will act as a catalyst for expansion, research, and development of geothermal, nuclear, carbon capture, and hydrogen.

While we still need to integrate cleaner energy sources into our power supply to get to net zero, we must also focus on demand at the edge of the grid. The edge of the grid is where electricity meets the consumer – businesses, buildings, homes etc. Grid edge technologies can give consumers more control over energy consumption and enable grid interactivity. The integration of cleaner energy is expected to result in energy price increases and grid reliability challenges. Disparities between planned supply and actual demand need to be coordinated and flexible. By focusing on both clean energy sources and grid-edge technology, we can achieve greater progress.

3. Continuous efficiency and virtual power technologies are here

Technologies that capture live energy data enable granularity and empower stakeholders to visualize what is happening in front of and behind the meter in real-time. This enables stronger decision-making for operation efficiency, empowers end-users to participate in grid interactivity, and provides insights to transform the exiting power system.

Aggregating virtual capacity across multiple locations unlocks decarbonization and resiliency required for a cleaner tomorrow on a wider scale. For utilities, it means ample on-demand capacity that can be called on within minutes to stabilize the grid during times of peak demand. For businesses, it means lower energy costs, lower operational costs, and more resilient buildings ready to withstand long-term energy infrastructure changes.

4. Scale strategies are needed now, and innovative finance models can help

Existing technologies could be making a much greater impact, however, various barriers to adoption limit scalability. To accelerate technology adoption there are three areas that need to be addressed: financing, affordability, and deployment. Making “the energy transition” profitable for those that need to participate is a great first step, and innovative financing models, such as subscription-based or as-a-service options, can remove capital barriers to accelerate technology deployment and incentivize program adoption.

5. Partnerships will take us forward by leaps and bounds

The future of energy is a challenging, interconnected puzzle that bridges politics, policy, infrastructure, technology, geography, economy, and environmental goals. Seeing leaders representing these groups unite for an open dialogue on the path forward is encouraging.

Commercial buildings in particular are critical to the energy transition, and they need solutions that reduce complexity and costs. By incentivizing businesses operating these buildings to adopt technology and make their buildings grid-interactive, businesses can reduce costs, play an active role in grid stability, operate more efficiently, deploy cost-effective strategies, and become more resilient to quickly changing energy trends without impacting operations.