November 26, 2019

Conquering Peak Power

Updated PNNL technology for buildings tames peak electricity use

City buildings with connections

Buildings of all shapes and sizes can benefit from the Intelligent Load Control technology, which manages energy consumption of building systems and devices.

Like its name suggests, Intelligent Load Control (ILC) technology is a smart tool for automatically managing electricity loads in buildings, particularly at times when the power grid needs help with meeting broader demand. PNNL developers added features to the recently released ILC version 2.0, extending the software’s versatility.

ILC coordinates operation of building devices, such as heating and cooling units, and is currently used to control building peak energy use or to respond to utility company requests to change consumption.

These features make ILC a promising component of the energy system of the future, in which buildings and their devices coordinate and negotiate with the power grid quickly and comprehensively. Such coordination, on a large scale, will help balance supply, demand, and costs, and make it possible to more effectively incorporate clean energy resources.

Enhancements Take ILC in a New Direction

ILC’s updated features include a bi-directional element that allows building operators to quickly increase a building’s electricity use.

“In the past, ILC’s focus was on reducing consumption to meet a specific target. The new feature makes it possible to quickly take advantage of low electricity costs to increase energy use and accomplish beneficial tasks such as pre-cooling a building or charging a battery,” says PNNL’s Srinivas Katipamula, ILC’s lead developer. “This would produce cost savings and make good use of excess electricity on the grid.”

Additionally, developers have added a configuration tool that improves application of ILC in building systems.

Look for Expanded Deployment and Testing

ILC was created several years ago as part of the PNNL-led Clean Energy and Transactive Campus project, an effort initially funded by the Department of Energy and Washington State.

Graph showing energy consumption throughout day
In a PNNL facility, Intelligent Load Control technology demonstrated that building devices can be managed to reduce electricity load during peak use periods and achieve desired consumption targets.

The technology, which currently is deployed in multiple buildings at PNNL and the University of Toledo, has gained industry attention and will be a focal point for a planned field test with a yet-to-be-named utility in 2020.

ILC version 2.0 enhancements augment the technology’s three primary buildings-grid capabilities: “capacity bidding,” which incentivizes targeted consumption reductions; transactive energy methods for enabling a rapid negotiation process between buildings and the grid; and peak power load management.

During peak power load management in buildings at PNNL, the technology has demonstrated quick and successful prioritization of heat pump operations to counter periods of increased consumption and meet desired targets—with minimal impact to occupant comfort. The technology has shown it can reduce peak consumption by up to 15 percent within one hour.

In all cases, ILC features are designed to not only support the grid, but to reduce energy use and ensure that a building remains fully functional, with occupants safe and comfortable.

“We’ve developed the technology with all of these aims in mind, and we continue to evaluate and improve it in advance of our planned 2020 field test,” Katipamula explains.


About PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.