Going Green: Demand-Response Appliances Help Masdar City Become the First Carbon-Neutral City in the World

According to IEO (International Energy Outlook) 2009 [1], the total world consumption of marketed energy is projected to increase by 44 percent from 2006 to 2030. The largest projected increase in energy demand is for the non-OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) economies.

Yet, in the midst of a seemingly insatiable world demand for limited resources, you may be surprised to find out that it is oil-rich Abu Dhabi, in the U.A.E., that has demonstrated a bold vision to transform itself as a global leader in sustainable new energy technologies. Masdar City is the most ambitious sustainable development in the world today - it will be the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste city, powered entirely by renewable energy sources. As part of the Masdar Initiative, a long-term strategic commitment by the government of Abu Dhabi to accelerate the development and deployment of future energy solutions, Masdar City plans to take sustainable development and living to a new level and lead the world in understanding how all future cities should be built. 

Living-laboratoryClean technologies such as solar fields are already in place. Solar and geothermal will be used to power the city. In order to control costs it will be important to be able to shift energy loads as necessary to balance the demand on the energy grid. Masdar (Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company) and GE Consumer & Industrial announced in October a pilot programme that will investigate the reduction of peak power demand through the use of smart home appliances. The pilot project comes as part of the broader relationship between GE and the Mubudala Development Company, of which Masdar is a wholly-owned subsidiary. The programme will test how GE Smart (or demand-response-enabled) appliances and a Home Energy Manager can lower power demand in the home and across the city. The Home Energy Manager (HEM) is the central nervous system to the home that will enable consumers not only to monitor their energy usage and generation but also manage their energy use in the most cost-effective manner.

HEM-Home-Energy-ManagerThe HEM can help the consumer determine when they should use energy from the grid, use stored energy, or self-generated energy or other sources. GE specifically designed and manufactured the appliances and networks for this pilot. The equipment will be installed in early 2010 in the first building to be completed at Masdar City, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. 

Developed in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology offers Masters and Doctoral-level degree programmes focused on the science and engineering of advanced energy and sustainable technologies. MIT is working with Masdar to establish a sustainable, home-grown academic and scientific research institute. A combination of classroom learning and thesis-driven interdisciplinary research will provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to address some of the world's most challenging problems. 

Ten of the Masdar Institute's 100 residences will participate in the two-year pilot project. The information developed from the programme will not only provide important early feedback in testing consumers' energy-consumption behaviour in the face of demand-response technology, but it will also assist Masdar City in planning and designing its smart power grid in order to achieve its carbon-neutral, zero-waste, 100%-renewable-energy-powered objectives. 

According to GE Consumer & Industrial President and CEO, James Campbell, "The GE smart appliances used in the pilot will be the first in the world to provide two-way communication and built-in advanced energy management functionality that will reduce power demand in response to notification of changing utility prices and energy demand, while also measuring and transmitting real-time power consumption data." 

Green-blueprintsHow the Masdar City pilot programme will work 
The pilot residences in the Masdar Institute building will be equipped with a Home Energy Manager and European-style and size demand-response-enabled refrigerators, cooktops and combination clothes washers/dryers that work on 220V/50Hz platforms. During the pilot, the HEM and appliances will receive signals from the grid, which will simulate peak energy usage periods. In response, the HEM and smart appliances will customise the appliances' responses to save energy, reducing energy demand on the grid. For example, the HEM and refrigerator will receive a signal that electricity prices are going up. When the refrigerator gets that signal, it can delay the defrost cycle and raise the temperature inside the refrigerator by a couple of degrees, thereby saving energy and money. When the refrigerator receives a signal that electricity prices have gone down, it will defrost the refrigerator and return the internal temperature to the original setting. 

The entire process does not require any involvement of the person living in the pilot residence, unless they choose to override the demand-response function. The clothes washer may delay the start time until a time of day when energy usage is lower. The electric clothes dryer will reduce the wattage used by the heating coils. The cooktop will employ radiant or induction cooking and will take a slightly longer time to heat up.

Demand-response technology will enable consumers to manage their control costs and energy consumption while helping the grid shed load, reducing the need for more power generation. GE plans to be the first manufacturer to offer a full suite of demand-response appliances that will work with utility smart meters to help shed load from the grid and consumers to save money during peak usage and pricing times. These appliances work with smart meters to delay or reduce energy use without major interruption to consumers' lifestyles by giving them control over their energy use. 

As Masdar CEO, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, puts it, "This is a significant milestone in the realisation of our vision to see Masdar City become not only a global centre of research and development in renewable energy and clean technologies, but also a unique metropolitan-scale test bed for these new technologies. Working with industry-leading partners such as GE, Masdar City is creating a community of prominent companies, organisations and academic institutions that are committed to finding solutions to humankind's toughest challenges." 

References [1] Source for statistics for legal review can be found at www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/world.html

Stephen Downer is the Commercial Leader for GE Consumer & Industrial Appliances EMEA. GE Consumer & Industrial spans the globe as an industry leader in major appliances, lighting and integrated industrial equipment, systems and services.