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The recent power crises that have hit several states across the U.S. in the past year serve as a stark reminder of how vulnerable our energy infrastructure can be in the face of extreme weather events or other emergencies. Commercial buildings, in particular, face significant challenges when the power grid fails. To mitigate these risks and ensure business continuity, it’s essential to prepare for a power emergency by implementing robust energy management systems (EMS).

Severe Weather
(Source: GridPoint / iStock)

The U.S. Power Crisis: A Wake Up Call

Over the past year, severe weather events and power grid problems have struck various regions, acting as a resounding wake up call to commercial buildings. From the unprecedented winter storm that paralyzed Texas to the devastating wildfires, heatwaves, and droughts experienced in California, extreme weather events have exposed vulnerabilities in power infrastructure across the United States.

Commercial buildings, heavily reliant on stable energy supplies for essential operations, have felt the brunt of these crises. Prolonged power outages have disrupted business operations, led to financial losses, and underscored the need for comprehensive emergency preparedness plans. As climate change continues to fuel extreme weather patterns, commercial buildings are recognizing the imperative of fortifying their energy infrastructure to ensure business continuity.

Lessons Learned From Severe Weather Events

  • Diverse Energy Sources: Recent severe weather events have highlighted the need for a diversified energy supply. Relying too heavily on a single energy source can lead to vulnerabilities when one source fails.
  • Demand Response: Demand response programs that encourage businesses to reduce electricity consumption during peak times can help stabilize the grid during emergencies.
  • Energy Storage: Deploying energy storage solutions, such as batteries, can provide a reliable source of backup power during outages.
  • Energy Efficiency: Commercial buildings should focus on energy efficiency measures to reduce overall energy consumption, making it easier to maintain operations during emergencies.

Preparing Commercial Buildings For A Power Emergency

  • Assess Vulnerabilities: The first step in preparing for a power emergency is to assess your building’s vulnerabilities. Identify critical systems and operations that rely on electricity and evaluate their importance to your business.
  • Develop an Emergency Plan: Create a comprehensive emergency plan that outlines how your building will respond to a power outage. This plan should cover actions like evacuations, communication protocols, and a clear chain of command.
  • Backup Power Sources: Install backup power sources such as generators or energy storage systems. These can keep essential systems running during an outage, preventing costly disruptions.
  • Energy Management Systems (EMS): Implement advanced energy management systems to monitor and control energy usage efficiently. EMS can help optimize energy consumption during normal operations and provide critical insights during emergencies.
  • Automated Demand Response: Participate in demand response programs offered by utility companies. These programs incentivize businesses to reduce their electricity consumption during peak demand periods, helping to stabilize the grid during emergencies. Find a DR partner that offers automated demand response capabilities to ensure your site stays comfortable during events.
  • Energy Efficiency Measures: Invest in energy-efficient technologies and practices to reduce overall energy consumption. This not only lowers operating costs but also increases resilience during power emergencies.

The Role Of Energy Management Systems (EMS)

Energy Management Systems (EMS) play a crucial role in preparing commercial buildings for power emergencies. An EMS can offer a range of valuable features for commercial buildings. These include real-time monitoring, which allows building operators to track energy consumption and identify potential issues before they escalate. Additionally, an EMS enables remote control of HVAC systems, lighting, and other energy-consuming equipment, making them indispensable during power outages by allowing the prioritization of critical loads and conservation of backup power.

Many EMSs incorporate predictive analytics to anticipate equipment failures and energy inefficiencies, promoting predictive maintenance and improved reliability. Furthermore, EMS systems automate load shedding during power emergencies, shedding non-essential loads to conserve energy for critical systems like lighting. Lastly, EMS systems provide essential data logging and reporting capabilities, which are crucial for assessing energy usage patterns, optimizing operations, and demonstrating compliance with energy regulations.

How Walgreens Is Leveraging An EMS And Demand Response To Help Create Energy Resilient Communities

The 2020 grid emergency in California emphasized the significance of demand response programs. During a Stage 3 emergency from August 14 to 21, extreme heat and unforeseen circumstances led to forecasted daily capacity shortages of up to 4,400 MW, resulting in rolling blackouts across the state. By leveraging existing demand response (DR) capacity and facilitating automated voluntary conservation efforts, further blackouts were prevented.

Walgreens, an early adopter of commercial DR programs with GridPoint technology, swiftly curtailed load across affected locations, showcasing the value of an established EMS and DR strategy. These initiatives are crucial for grid modernization, especially as the U.S. shifts towards a cleaner energy grid. As distributed energy resources (DER) are integrated at scale, energy management systems and automated demand response serve as a bridge between traditional generation and clean energy technologies, ensuring grid reliability in the 21st century.

Get Started Today

The multiple power crises in the past years serve as a stark reminder of the importance of preparing for power emergencies, especially for commercial buildings. To ensure business continuity and protect critical operations, it is crucial to assess vulnerabilities, develop emergency plans, and invest in advanced energy management systems (EMS). An EMS not only optimizes energy usage during normal operations but also plays a pivotal role in managing energy efficiently during power emergencies, reducing risks and costs, and enhancing overall resilience.

Don’t wait until the next severe weather event strikes – start your preparations today with a free energy audit and take control of your energy usage. It’s a step towards a more efficient and environmentally responsible future for your business.

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