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Honeywell’s U.K. ‘Smart Energy’ Trial Cuts Peak Power Use by 36%

Honeywell International Inc., a U.S. maker of thermostats and electronic controls, cut peak power use in buildings by as much as 36 percent during a U.K. trial of “smart” energy-saving equipment in a network run by SSE Plc.

The kit, installed in three buildings in Bracknell, southern England, helps reduce electricity use by dimming or switching off lights and heating when they’re not in use, Scott Petersen, Honeywell’s business development director for smart grids in Europe, said today in a phone interview.

Utilities are seeking ways to curb demand for electricity at peak times when the U.K. grid is stretched to capacity. Smart technologies, such as meters that monitor usage and voltage-control equipment to prevent power surges, may help cut costs as the government calls for 110 billion pounds ($176 billion) to upgrade generating plants and distribution networks by 2020.

“It doesn’t make sense to keep installing larger grid assets which are oversized for demand for 80 percent of the time and you only need for 20 percent of the time,” Petersen said. “We’re looking to avoid that and prove you can use a more simple solution that’s a fifth of the cost and defer that investment by a number of years.”

Honeywell’s 2 million-pound trial, which over the next year will also use equipment from General Electric Co., is financed by the Low Carbon Networks Fund, a program run by the energy regulator Ofgem to help the U.K. reduce greenhouse gases.

Cut Power

The SSE-Honeywell test is aimed at cutting power use in the buildings by 10 percent, according to Petersen, who said usage has “regularly” dropped by 20 percent and was down as much as 36 percent at the end of September. That includes switching off lights in meeting rooms and cafeterias when they’re empty and timing heating and air conditioning to operate before peak-demand hours begin at about 3 p.m., he said.

The trial, described by Petersen as the first of its kind in Europe, will be extended to as many as 30 buildings next year. At present, the local substation, which has a 50-megawatt capacity, has to deliver 48 megawatts at peak hours, he said.

The equipment from New Jersey-based Honeywell includes a hand drier-sized device that’s installed next to the power-management systems typically found in commercial buildings. The device, connected to the electricity meter, sends signals back to a server that’s currently in the U.S., to determine when it can start turning lights and appliances off, known as shedding.

SSE is able to monitor all the buildings in the program, and start a “shedding strategy” manually, according to Petersen. The goal is to automate that process, and in the next stage of the trial GE equipment will be used to monitor how close the substation is to reaching peak capacity, he said.

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