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Making smart energy work for apartments

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Felicite Moorman's picture

Felicite Moorman is an award-winning technology entrepreneur and attorney with over 25 years of experience founding and building companies. She has earned an international reputation as the go-to...

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  • Oct 25, 2019 4:45 pm GMT

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2019-10 - Energy Efficiency, click here for more

The Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling and thriving in many industries, including energy utilities. According to Microsoft, “IoT is becoming indispensable to commercial organizations.” These IoT innovations have also inevitably affected the energy industry, but the adoption is gradual. Let’s explore this by diving into the intersection of IoT technology in smart apartments and the energy sector.

What does the intersection of smart apartment technology and the energy sector look like? 

Energy providers’ smart device rebates and demand response programs have been created to jumpstart smart energy management. These programs have been largely successful and cost-effective.

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However, this intersection generally excludes Multifamily Building Owners, Operators, and Residents from participating. 

As these smart energy management programs have been designed for single-family homes, it does not take into account how Multifamily Building Owners, Managers, and Residents might participate. For example, most energy saving programs with smart thermostats require the Resident to purchase a device on their own then opt in to the program. This works well for single-family homes, as the Residents of that home also own the smart device. On the other hand, Multifamily Developers who install thermostats and other energy saving devices, property-wide, cannot follow this same protocol. 

Thus, an entire asset class of commercial real estate is left out of participating.  

There are some energy providers that do accommodate Multifamily incentives, including Austin Energy and Puget Sound Energy

However, there is much to be gained in energy efficiency by better bridging smart technology and energy in Multifamily.

For a Property Manager or Owner, reducing utility costs is an operational expenditure mandate. But how can this be possible when there are other responsibilities that ensure Resident comfort and safety?

What could the intersection of smart apartment technology and the energy sector look like? 

The Smart Energy Summit in Austin gave us a clearer picture of the existing intersection between smart home and smart apartment technology and the energy sector, as well as future possibilities. The following are some examples:

  • Demand response programs that are available for the entire building (including Resident units) for Multifamily Property Owners. 
  • Further R&D into cutting edge technology by utility companies that serve markets with a large share of ratepayers with Multifamily properties. This would incentivize growth and scale. Austin Energy and ConEdison are examples of service providers that have already implemented this. 
  • Flexible rebate programs that include all platforms and devices that are capable of smart energy efficiency features. 
  • Strong incentives for energy saving “features,” rather than only for the simple presence of particular smart devices. This opens up energy saving incentives to various companies to innovate to do this lighter, quicker, and cheaper.
  • Water waste prevention with water valve actuators and IoT sensor technology can conserve energy lost from catastrophic water leak events. This would also significantly decrease damages and Resident distress. 
  • Utility-Multifamily technology partnerships, smart apartment technology, and the energy industry can deliver improved energy and economic efficiencies to public stakeholders. In income-qualified communities, IoT-enabled buildings could deliver energy savings and property-wide Internet access. 
  • Alliances with technology and energy procurement firms can deliver low-price electricity contracts for Multifamily buildings. With the right information and technology, Property Managers can operate their buildings to minimize energy waste and operational expenditures. 

Energy management, operational efficiency maximization, and clean energy advancement are central to the goal of a future with a complete technology solution for Multifamily building management and Resident experience.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 25, 2019

This is such an important issue-- the split incentives between landlords and tenants is leaving a lot of energy savings meat on the bone. Utilities and other stakeholders need to get creative in incentivizing both parties to capture those potential efficiencies. 

Thanks for sharing, Felicite!

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