Low-Cost Wireless Meter Challenge to be Announced by U.S. DOE

April 10, 2013 by Jeff Shepard

Following the model of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Better Buildings Alliance Rooftop Unit Challenge, DOE's Better Buildings Alliance Technology Solutions Team will soon be issuing the Low-cost Wireless Meter Challenge to industry to produce a cost-effective, wireless metering system capable of electrical energy measurement at various locations in a building and wireless communication to a remote data collection point within the building complex. The primary goal of the program is to catalyze the development of low cost panel-level metering solutions. Selected devices may, in some cases, also be applicable to a whole-building application, but that application is outside the scope of this challenge. In developing the specifications for this challenge, DOE considered input from federal agencies and members of the Better Buildings Alliance (BBA).

The performance specification for the Wireless Metering Challenge is now available for review and comment. The goal of the challenge is to develop a wireless metering system that contains the following attributes: Low cost target; Essential requirements for electrical energy measurement; And wireless data transmission to onsite collection point.

According to the pre-announcement: The oft-used adage "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it" is true in commercial buildings, where reducing energy can be enabled by the collection and use of data. While it is technically possible to get (near) real-time, granular energy use data for even the most complex building, many decision makers do not have that information, as the high cost of purchasing and installing additional meters is prohibitive. This is particularly critical in jurisdictions where metering of building energy use is required by law, such as the federal sector and a growing number of markets like New York City. The market is in need of reliable, cost-effective metering systems.

In order to take action to reduce energy usage, owners and operators need to know how energy is being used in their buildings. Metering data provides visibility to a building's energy use. Energy costs can be reduced by taking action to resolve problems identified by examining metered data. While metering systems do not directly improve energy efficiency, metering systems enable focused, energy efficient actions. It is estimated that using systems results in energy efficient actions that deliver electricity energy savings of at least 2%.

Today, the cost of building panel-level metering systems is typically the key hurdle to implementing these technologies. DOE has a proven track record through its Rooftop Unit Challenge of teaming up with industry to solve problems related to technology development. In this case, demand-side interest from commercial sector actors will form a compelling incentive to manufacturers to provide low cost, reliable metering devices. Manufacturers will see benefits from DOE raising awareness about the need for metering by working with BBA members and other stake holders to implement technologies. DOE will also provide technical assistance in the form of 3rd party verification and testing of the Challenge technologies. DOE can then drive the implementation of electric metering through lower pricing and a greater understanding of the performance of the technologies.

Comments on the draft specification are due on or before April 26, 2013. On Tuesday, April 30, DOE will host a webinar to present the revised specification and discuss frequently asked questions.