Originally published on RMI.org.
By John Matson
The White House on May 17 announced a slate of new programs aimed at integrating US buildings into the clean energy economy. The initiatives include electrification programs for existing homes, workforce training for next-generation jobs in the buildings sector, and efforts to increase the adoption of efficient electric heat pumps and EV fast chargers.
Alongside the plans for job training and building electrification, the announcement also highlighted the Biden administration’s goals for grid-interactive efficient buildings — a less well-known approach that has significant potential to reduce carbon emissions.
In this blog post, we’ll explore what grid-interactive efficient buildings are and why they feature so prominently in plans for a clean energy future.
What Are Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings?
A grid-interactive efficient building (GEB) continuously optimizes energy use by combining efficiency measures such as LED lighting, efficient heat pumps, and high-performance windows with smart technologies such as solar, battery storage, and integrated building controls. Rather than simply consuming energy from the grid based on the building’s baseline energy use and occupant demands, a GEB interacts with the grid to continuously manage its demand in response to key signals from the electric utility.
To save money, reduce strain on the grid, or limit carbon emissions from electricity generation, a GEB might shed load (e.g., automatically dimming LED lights throughout the building) or shift its load from one time to another (e.g., drawing from on-site batteries rather than the grid) in a practice known as demand flexibility, or load flexibility.
What Is Demand Flexibility?
Demand flexibility is a building’s ability to shed or time-shift its energy demand in response to near-real-time signals about conditions on the grid. Demand flexibility signals can include the current price of electricity, the availability of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, and the carbon intensity of the current energy mix. For instance, a GEB might employ demand flexibility to shift its peak electricity demand to a time of day when solar energy is abundant and might otherwise be curtailed.
Demand flexibility offers significant promise for reducing the carbon emissions from building operations, especially as the grid integrates more distributed energy resources. But the benefits can extend beyond cost and carbon savings. As detailed in a new RMI insight brief, buildings that flex their demand can shift energy away from peak usage times, when utilities often rely on fossil-burning “peaker” plants to help meet surging demand. Demand flexibility can therefore reduce the need for these peaker plants, eliminating not only their carbon emissions but also their significant contributions to air pollution.
What Are the Potential Benefits of GEBs?
The potential energy, emissions, and cost savings from combining energy efficiency and demand flexibility in GEBs are substantial. Buildings account for more than 70 percent of US electricity consumption and at least one-third of US emissions, according to the US Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office (BTO). A new GEB roadmap from the BTO estimates that smarter, more efficient buildings can eliminate 80 million tons of CO2 emissions annually by 2030, reducing the emissions of the entire US power sector by 6 percent. The emissions savings from GEBs would be equivalent to retiring more than 50 midsize coal plants or taking 17 million cars off the road.
Widespread adoption of GEB technologies would reduce peak loads on the grid, which would in turn reduce the needed capacity of the grid to meet those demands. The cost savings of GEBs would therefore extend beyond the owners and tenants of the GEBs themselves. By 2040, the BTO calculates, GEBs could save the US power system more than $100 billion in cumulative electricity generation and transmission costs.
What Are the New US Goals for GEBs?
In the GEB roadmap, released May 17 in conjunction with the White House announcement, the US Department of Energy laid out a goal of tripling the energy efficiency and demand flexibility of buildings by 2030, relative to 2020 levels. To reach that goal, the roadmap articulates 14 recommendations, from enhancing R&D for smart-building technologies to policy options for encouraging integration of GEB practices.
Among the roadmap’s recommendations is that government agencies should “lead by example” — deploying GEB measures in government-owned buildings to demonstrate the benefits and provide valuable insights and best practices for more widespread deployment. Already, the vast majority of US states have adopted requirements for energy usage or efficiency in government buildings, and demand flexibility could become a valuable tool for meeting those requirements.
At the federal level, the savings from GEBs would be significant. The US General Services Administration (GSA) is the nation’s largest landlord, with nearly 10,000 buildings and more than 375 million square feet of real estate under its control. In a 2019 cost-benefit analysis, RMI found that the GSA could save $50 million annually (about 20 percent of its energy expenditures) by implementing GEB measures across its portfolio of buildings. In all six locations that RMI studied in the GSA analysis, the payback period for GEB improvements was less than four years (and in some cases less than a year), demonstrating the soundness of the investment for the government and for taxpayers.
Next Steps at the Federal Level
A new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) provides a blueprint for the GSA to select buildings that are ideal candidates for cost-effective GEB projects. The report also lays out strategies and best practices for integrating GEB measures into the various phases of contract development for energy-focused building retrofits.
The NREL report notes that the sheer number of buildings managed by the GSA would allow the agency to screen its real estate portfolio for the highest-value GEB candidates before applying the early lessons learned in implementing GEB measures in performance contracts. NREL also notes that the buildings with the greatest economic potential for grid-interactive efficiency tend to share features such as time-of-use energy rates, high demand charges for a building’s peak energy usage, or utility or state programs that incentivize utility customers to be responsive in their energy demand.
One of the challenges identified by the new reports from BTO and NREL is the maturity and availability of some technologies that would optimize GEB implementation. Systems for coordinated, whole-building automation in response to signals from the grid are among the emerging technologies that will be needed to maximize GEBs’ benefits. The GSA’s Proving Ground program is evaluating some of these building control systems in demonstration projects, and the learnings from those evaluations should help to further shape best practices for implementing GEB projects nationwide.
The Path to 2030 and Beyond
By integrating energy efficiency, distributed energy generation technologies, and demand flexibility into its buildings, the GSA can help to advance the state of the art in grid-interactive efficient buildings. The proof points from GEB projects in the federal government’s building portfolio will not only help advance the DOE goal of tripling demand flexibility and efficiency measures by 2030. They should also make for a cleaner, more resilient grid powering smarter, more efficient buildings—all while saving taxpayers money.
Kia officially premieres EV9 SUV with 336-mile range, vehicle-to-grid capabilities, plus GT version
As promised, following our first glimpse at official images last week, Kia has fully launched its long-anticipated EV9 SUV ahead of pre-orders next quarter. In addition to further details regarding some of the technology we’ve already seen in Kia’s first third-row EV, the automaker shared exciting news regarding sustainability, autonomy, over-the-air updates, and vehicle-to-grid capabilities.
Table of contents
Quick recap on Kia’s first three-row electric SUV
The Kia EV9 debuts as the second all-electric model donning the Korean automaker’s new “EV” series nomenclature. Like the EV6 crossover that proceeded it, the EV9 sits atop Hyundai Motor Group’s 800V E-GMP platform, offering ultrafast charging speeds in addition to capabilities for vehicle-to-load (V2L) power and the potential for greater uses. (More on that below.)
We’ve been anticipating today’s official debut since Kia first teased the SUV concept in November 2021. That was soon followed by a working prototype last summer that closely resembled its originally dreamed design form. In mid-March, Kia shared the first full images of the EV9, inside and out, relaying some of the design elements reiterated during the recent presentation.
This includes the SUV’s unique digital spin on Kia’s signature “tiger face” front end, as well as multiple seating options in the cabin, including second-row swivel seats that turn 180 degrees. While that was certainly enough to briefly pique our interest, we were quickly anticipating the full EV9 debut from Korea, which was promised before the end of the month.
Following the full presentation from Kia (you can view that for yourself below), we have learned a ton more about this all-electric SUV, and there’s a lot for future customers to get excited about.
Kia EV9 SUV specs and key features
All right, let’s dig right in because there’s a lot to unfold here. The Kia EV9 SUV will come available in two different battery size options – a 76.1 kWh pack in the Standard RWD option or a Long Range 99.8 kWh battery available in both RWD and AWD configurations.
When asked, the Kia team confirmed that both the Standard and Long Range variants of the RWD EV9 will be sold in North America. The automaker is not sharing detailed performance specs for each trim level just yet, but it did share a few:
- RWD Long Range
- One single 150 kW (350 Nm) electric motor
- Estimated 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration in 9.4 seconds
- RWD Standard Range
- One single 160 kW (350 Nm) electric motor
- Estimated 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration in 8.2 seconds
- AWD variant
- Two electric motors that combine for 282 kW (600 Nm torque)
- Estimated 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration in 6 seconds
Right now, Kia is estimating its Long Range RWD version of the EV9 will be able to deliver 541 km (336 miles) of range on a single charge. Since its estimates were calculated using the more generous WLTP standard, we’d expect the official EPA estimated range to land between 300-310 miles.
Kia also said it will eventually introduce a “Boost” option that will increase the torque of the AWD SUV’s front motor to a total of 700 Nm. That add-on will be available for purchase at a later date using a new tool debuting on the EV9 – the Kia Connect Store.
According to Kia, the Connect store will enable future drivers to purchase digital features and other services at their leisure, all installed over the air without any need for a dealership visit. When asked by the media during the debut presentation, Kia shared that the Connect Store will offer features as either a one-time purchase or subscription option.
One of the huge selling points of EVs built upon Hyundai Motor Group’s 800V E-GMP platform is the charging performance it can deliver. The super fast charge rates of the Hyundai IONIQ 5 and Kia EV6 have already gone over really well with consumers and should be no different when the EV9 SUV arrives.
Kia states that the 800V platform will be able to garner an estimated 239 km (approximately 149 miles) of range in just 15 minutes of DC fast charging, which could be perfect for future road trips in the family-sized electric SUV.
Another huge perk enabled by the E-GMP platform is its Integrated Charging Control Unit (ICCU), allowing for the discharging of energy from the EV’s battery to power other devices. This is better known as vehicle-to-load, or V2L. Kia states the EV9 will be able to deliver 3.68 kW of power to other devices, whether it’s a laptop, mini fridge, or charging another EV.
We’ve explored the function ourselves with the Hyundai IONIQ 5 and IONIQ 6, but Kia is taking things a step further in the EV9 with another first. Kia’s all-electric SUV will come equipped with the technology to support vehicle-to-home (V2H), allowing future owners to use the EV9 has a backup power source during emergencies or power outages.
Furthermore, Kia said its EV9 customers will eventually be able to add a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) function in the future, allowing them to actually supply surplus energy back to their local energy grid for profit. There will be a lot of red tape to cut through to get this feature implemented, but if successful, it could be an absolute game changer.
Kia debuts a GT-Line, but what about a performance GT?
During its recent presentation, Kia also introduced a new GT-line that will emerge in select markets later this year. Per Kia:
In addition to the standard model, Kia has unveiled the GT-Line model design, which features a unique aesthetic that distinguishes it from the standard model. The front and rear bumpers, wheels, and roof rack have undergone a transformation, donning a distinctive black color palette that exudes a strong and assertive presence, setting it apart from its standard counterpart. Notably, the GT-Line features an exclusive digital pattern lighting grill that adds an element of dynamism and sophistication to its already impressive design.
All that said, this trim variant is aesthetic in nature and should not be confused with a performance GT version of the SUV, similar to what Kia did with the aforementioned EV6. That would be sweet, though, wouldn’t it?
Well, to our surprise, Kia president and CEO Ho-Sung Song said the automaker is, in fact, in the process of developing an EV9 performance GT SUV, stating further that it will “redefine what performance means to an EV.” Exciting news, but Song followed by saying we won’t see that version until early 2025.
ADAS and sustainability get a chance to shine in the EV9
For years now, Kia has been one of the global automakers truly embracing electrification and striving toward true carbon neutrality throughout its business by 2045, but during the EV9 SUV presentation, we learned it is again pushing the boundaries of sustainable styling.
The EV9 will be the first Kia model to showcase the automaker’s three-step Design Sustainability Strategy, which includes the phasing out of leathers, increasing the use of bio-based materials, and applying 10 “must-have” sustainable items to every model, from its standard trim all the way to the top tier option. Here are some examples present in Kia’s electric SUV:
- Recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
- Recycled suede and recycled thermoplastic olefin (TPO) in the dashboard, door, and pillar trim
- Recycled fishing nets used in the floor carpets
- BIO PU (Bio-Polyurethane), derived from corn and eucalyptus, is used to replace leather and PVC
In terms of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), Kia is striving toward reaching SAE Level 3 autonomy, and the EV9 will arrive with the necessary components to eventually allow for hands-free driving under certain driving conditions as the SUV follows the car in front of it while maintaining a safe distance.
Its current iteration will feature remote smart parking assist, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, blind spot detection, lane-keeping assist, and smart cruise control. Highway driving assist 2 allows for lane changes and uses hands-on detection to confirm its driver’s attention.
Lastly, Digital Key 2 will allow future EV9 owners to open and start their car using just their smartphone – another first for Kia.
Kia EV9 pricing and availability
All right, let’s start with pricing. There is none, sorry. According to Kia, its team is “monitoring several factors to determine optimal pricing for its customers.” We’re not sure where it will land, but this SUV is very likely going to be Kia’s most expensive model to date.
The first versions will be produced in Korea, but Kia intends to share global production plans for the EV9 in the near future. Pre-orders for the electric SUV will begin in Korea in Q2 2023, followed by other global markets in the second half of this year, including Europe, North and South America, and the Middle East.
We are sure to learn more as we approach pre-orders in Korea and will at least be able to ballpark where pricing and performance specs may land for the North American market. In the meantime, check out the full EV9 SUV world premiere from Kia below.
Meet Hawaii’s first solar and wind-powered electric catamaran charter
Kohala Blue, a boat tour operator in Kawaihae on the Big Island of Hawaii, has introduced what it calls the first renewable electric catamaran charter in Hawaii. The Dolce Vita is powered by an electric propulsion system that is charged by solar panels, wind turbines, and propeller regeneration.
Kohala Blue’s solar and wind-powered electric catamaran
When Kohala Blue’s 34-foot Gemini sailing charter broke down last year with a damaged diesel engine, the company was caught in a tight spot with few options.
Rather than trying to replace the parts, which would have been really costly, Kohala Blue’s owner, Shaun Barnes, made the decision to go electric.
Kohala Blue issued a news release last week, stating, “The company recently upgraded its 34-foot Gemini sailing catamaran with two electric propulsion motors, powered with sun and wind, that run silently and peacefully while underway.” The press release added:
What this means for passengers is a sailing experience like no other in the islands: no engine noise, vibration, air or water pollution and no fumes associated with gas or diesel power. Guests are confident their choice to snorkel, sail and observe marine life from the spacious decks of the Dolce Vita is the best for the marine environment.
The company says the conversion has completely transformed the experience for guests, creating a nearly silent, peaceful ride while minimizing the impact on marine animals.
In particular, electric propulsion has much less impact on whales than loud gas engines because they rely on ultrasonic hearing to navigate and find food.
The 34-foot Gemini 105MC sailing catamaran is Hawaii’s first renewable electric charter, according to Kohala Blue. Solar panels fitted on the dodger combined with wind turbines and propeller regeneration allow for a completely renewable energy-powered eco-friendly experience.
Barnes says she has noticed clear benefits from the electric conversion, telling West Hawaii Today:
The best part of it is the peace and quiet. When we’re moving, people can’t even tell whether we’re under motor or under sail. We have a hydrophone — an underwater microphone — and you can hear other boats coming from very far away.
She added that although the electric sailboat has roughly 19.8 hp, less than the 27 hp with the diesel engine, the electric engine’s instant torque offsets the speed reduction with a max speed under motor of about 6.5 knots.
Kohala Blue offers private charters for up to six guests with morning, afternoon, and sunset sails. You can book tours on the company’s website.
Kohala Blue is paving the way for an eco-friendly sailing experience with its new solar- and wind-powered electric-powered catamaran.
Nobody wants to travel on the water with a loud diesel engine blocking out all the sounds and smells of nature and, more importantly, destroying the environment and its inhabitants.
The company may need to start another business in converting sailboats to solar, wind, and electric power because these could revolutionize the charter industry while saving the oceans and the creatures living in them.
Tesla (TSLA) is on pace for a record quarter
Tesla (TSLA) appears to be on pace for a record quarter for deliveries led by solid performance in the US, China, and Norway.
At Electrek, we love seeing electric vehicles being deployed in volume, and Tesla is the most exciting company to follow when it comes to that.
The company is currently simultaneously ramping up two new factories – Gigafactory Berlin and Gigafactory Texas. On top of that, it is still increasing capacity at existing plants in California and China.
These factories have enabled Tesla to deliver record numbers of electric vehicles over the last few quarters and increase its lead in the EV market. Last quarter, Tesla delivered a record 405,000 electric vehicles; historically, Tesla’s Q1 deliveries come down for Q4 or are only marginally higher.
Tesla investors are hoping for more in Q1 2023, thanks to the ramp-up in Berlin and Texas, especially the former, where the automaker recently achieved a production rate of 5,000 Model Y vehicles per week.
But the question is: Can Tesla deliver all those cars to paying customers? Things are looking good in Tesla’s key markets.
In the US, Tesla’s massive price drops have resulted in “unprecedented demand,” as we previously reported. The automaker ran out of new production build slots for the Model Y, its most popular model now, halfway into the quarter.
China, Tesla’s second biggest market, is also looking good this quarter.
The latest registration data shows that Tesla already beat its record for deliveries in the country with 126,000 deliveries with still a week left in the quarter.
Tesla’s total deliveries in the quarter in China should be around 140,000 vehicles.
In Norway, Tesla is also on pace for a record month of March in Norway with already 7,000 deliveries; it will likely end the month with around 10,000 vehicles delivered in the quarter, which is massively impressive for a small country.
The Wall Street consensus for Tesla deliveries worldwide in Q1 2023 is 420,000 vehicles, up about 15,000 units from the previous quarter and up over 100,000 units year-over-year.
Anything over 420,000 units would be very good, in my opinion. Without any growth, it would be around 1.7 million units this year, but obviously, we expect some growth, especially in the second half of the year.
As Musk said, 1.8 million units look very achievable, and two million if everything goes perfectly, which it virtually never does.
Anything over 420,000 units this quarter would have the higher end of that delivery window still in play.
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