Eaton launches its Buildings as a Grid approach


Power management company Eaton is launching a suite of hardware, software and services that can transform buildings into energy hubs that extract maximum benefit from on-site renewable generation. Its ‘Buildings as a Grid’ approach to energy transition and electric vehicle charging has been enhanced following the recent acquisition of Switzerland based Green Motion SA, a leading designer and manufacturer of electric vehicle charging hardware and related software.

Eaton has taken an ‘Everything as a Grid’ approach to the energy transition to help customers accelerate decarbonisation, boost resilience, reduce energy costs and create new revenue streams. For building owners, by managing the building energy system as a grid, Eaton can transform facilities into energy hubs that better manage existing electrical infrastructure and plan for future energy needs. This is what is meant by Buildings as a Grid.

If building owners instead choose an ad hoc approach bolting on EV chargers to existing infrastructure, they risk encountering power management difficulties and grid upgrade costs when they need to increase capacity to meet demand. This could happen quickly as the switch to EVs gathers momentum: EV sales in Europe grew by more than 140% in 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, and the number of EVs globally is expected to jump from 8.5 million in 2020 to 116 million in 2030*.

Eaton’s Buildings as a Grid approach comprises three systems: EV charging, energy management and power distribution. Together these systems allow building owners to monitor and optimise the energy performance of their building and securely control energy assets. This is what the three systems do:

EV charging system: this is grid-connected EV charging hardware and software that provides a high level of service for EV charging users, as well as supporting dynamic charging and pricing;

Energy management system: this improves the resilience of a building’s electrical infrastructure and supports growing requirement for EV charging capacity in the building by providing demand-side flexibility. This is achieved with energy management software that manages energy flows amongst flexible energy assets that could include: EV chargers, energy storage systems, solar inverters and physical controls for heat pumps and boilers.

Power distribution system: manages electrical power distribution and protection.

Building owners and operators are facing a growing need to monitor and optimise their energy consumption as they add more electrical loads such as EVs as well as new sources of on-site generation and even storage. Eaton’s energy management software automatically optimises the control of connected assets according to different user-defined goals, including minimizing electricity bills and carbon footprint and maximizing consumption of renewables.

The combination of energy storage and energy management software offers multiple benefits: it can be added without the costly civil engineering works often associated with grid upgrades and it allows users to store off-peak energy and any self-generated renewable power they can make available from sources such as on-site solar photovoltaic (PV) generation. Stored low-cost power can be used at times of expensive peak demand, saving money and benefitting the environment because it enables what’s known as ‘peak shaving’ – reducing the load on the grid to prevent it being switched to carbon-intensive fossil fuel power which may be all that is available when demand is at its heaviest.

Eaton’s acquisition of pioneering Swiss EV charging company, Green Motion, has yielded a range of  EV chargers, together with billing and management software. This offering from, Eaton includes managing EV chargers, balancing the load to ensure a smooth customer experience, enabling billing and customer authentication, and generating revenues.

Fabrice Roudet, head of energy storage and EV charging, EMEA at Eaton said, “Our Buildings as a Grid approach helps building owners to integrate on-site renewables and address challenges related to the electrification of transport and heat. Additionally, it enables building owners to play an important role in facilitating and optimising the transition to a high renewable energy system. The electrification of transport and heat will place ever growing demands on distribution networks as more loads are added at the edge. BloombergNEF modelling shows that the cost of grid upgrades to cope with mass electrification can be reduced when electricity generated and stored behind the meter can also be used to support local grids. For this to work, governments and regulators must urgently enable the deep and transparent flexibility markets needed to unlock private investment.”

* 2020 Electric Vehicle Outlook Report, BloombergNEF.


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