According to a report in greentechgrid last week, Microsoft is working with partners on ways to offer software and services for managing energy consumption in commercial buildings.
The company is also investigating how building management systems can be enhanced by predictive analysis tools, so that, for instance, air conditioners in buildings could be turned down to compensate for a decline in power from a wind farm.
The greentechgrid report points out that commercial buildings in the US account for 20% of the country’s energy consumption, about the same as used in homes. Microsoft already has a platform – Hohm – for home users to monitor their energy consumption, but adoption appears to be slow, given the current costs and limited benefits. Commercial property, on the other hand, is generally larger and more complex and offers better business opportunities.
The article is based on comments from Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s chief environmental strategist. He’s also quoted as saying that "Upwards of 20% of energy can be reduced not by replacing windows, but by deploying technology".
Greentechgrid makes other comments on the fact that home energy management systems have had limited success to date. It’s certainly a difficult market to be in. There will be significant benefits to users, but they’re not going to be available until smart grids are fully implemented. Even then, much will depend on how ‘smart’ the systems are, the extent to which renewable energy results in differential power rates during the day, the need to charge electric vehicles, etc. It’s likely that home energy management will go through a number of iterations and marketing pushes as they are able to take advantage of smart grid implementations. As Microsoft seems to have decided, the commercial market, with often an immediate capability of reducing power use on a larger scale, represents a much better short-term opportunity.