Tendril reduces HVAC load by 85% during demand response events

Tendril has released results from the summer rollout of its cloud-based Orchestrated Energy platform, claiming the system enabled significant savings for utilities and their customers. HVAC systems represent one of the largest pressures on the energy grid during summer months, so these results should be very encouraging for utilities looking to cut costs and take stress off its existing infrastructure.

On days when Tendril was in control of consumer thermostats, the participating utilities were able to reduce HVAC load by an average of 85% during the demand response (DR) window, while also delivering an additional 14% of HVAC energy efficiency savings, on top of the 10% saving already provided by the smart thermostat.

Demand response events have been created in the US, to help a utility deal with periods of high demand on its network. The impact of the peak demand on a utility can often be costly, and put unnecessary stress on its infrastructure. HVAC systems have come to represent some 50% of all building energy consumption in the US, or 20% of country’s total energy consumption.

Consequently, utilities use DR events to encourage customers to reduce their load on the grid – incentivizing them to turn off devices and reduce consumption through discounts and rebates. The old approach required customers to opt-in to the DR event, ahead of time.

Tendril claims that in the past, demand response events have been inconvenient for consumers, as simply opting into every event could mean a building doesn’t remain at a desired temperature when the consumer is there – eventually causing the customer to become dissatisfied with their decision to opt-in, and opt-out, stifling participation.

Tendril claims the Orchestrated Energy platform can calculate a home’s thermal mass, and predict consumer behavior. This data is then integrated with connected devices, to create an adaptive demand response event schedule for each day – supposedly allowing customers to avoid the inconvenience they might previously have experienced.

The results suggest that Orchestrated Energy is delivering customer comfort – with the platform in use, utilities saw a 33% decrease in the number of times a customer manually adjusted their thermostat.

Tendril was founded in 2004, and has secured some $131.2m in funding. It acquired GroundedPower in 2010, and Recurve in 2012, and is based in the US. It claims to have saved some 1,948GWh of energy to date, using its platform, and customers include SunPower (an investor), Alliant, Duke, and North American Power.

Tendril has rolled out the platform in 15 US states in partnership with utilities, including the territories of AEP’s Indiana Michigan Power and Xcel Energy – although it is not made clear as to the number of buildings using Orchestrated Energy, and the cost savings these utilities have made.

Utility Xcel Energy used Tendril’s platform this year, to reduce HVAC cooling load by up to 50%, and lower the overall energy consumption by users of up to 20%. Navigant expects the demand response market to grow into a $3bn market this year, with some 20m customers involved – up from about 50,000 at the beginning of last year.

Orchestrated Energy was initially solely supported by the ecobee smart thermostat, it is now also supported on Nest and Honeywell thermostats with participating utilities. Utilities often have tie-ups for smart thermostat hardware, so making Orchestrated Energy compatible with different hardware will be critical for its wider adoption by utilities.

Orchestrated Energy was developed as part of the Tendril Platform 4 system, and incorporates an energy usage simulation model using predictive analytics to drive the platform. It takes cost and load signals from the utility, and then cross references this information with data from the consumers’ smart thermostats, or any other connected devices in the home, to determine which demand response event to take part in.

Orchestrated Energy also takes customer preferences for home energy usage into account. This further helps it make effective decisions about whether the customer would like to participate in a demand response event. The customer can then see their energy schedule on Tendril’s MyHome app, or on the utility’s existing communication platform.

If a consumer deviates from their usual schedule, say they decide not to go to work for a day and stay at home, the Orchestrated Energy platform will recognize this through the customer’s connected devices, and then likely make the decision to partake in fewer demand response events that day.

Tendril claims that the Orchestrated Energy platform can respond to any changes that might occur that would affect the schedule in real time, such as a generator going out overnight on the grid, or a customer leaving a window blind up causing the customers house to heat up faster.