Smart-grid technology to save energy in uptown Charlotte

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Duke Energy and corporate-government partners unveiled plans yesterday to deploy cutting-edge technology to save energy in uptown Charlotte’s commercial core.

The Charlotte Observer reports the first-of-its king initiative would apply the smart-grid devices Duke is already testing in south Charlotte homes to the energy-hungry buildings in the center city.

The goal, by 2016, is to cut energy use 20 percent in about 60 buildings, including most commercial structures inside the Interstate 277 loop.

Smart grid refers to the use of digital technology and sensors to update an electrical system that has changed little, in its basics, since Thomas Edison. It uses electricity more efficiently, in part by giving consumers more information and control over their energy use.

In uptown, digital displays in each building’s lobby will track its real-time energy use. Building managers will use the information to fine-tune heating, cooling and lighting. Workers, Duke hopes, will be motivated to turn off lights.

With Thursday’s announcement, Duke, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County – which control about 12 million of the 15 million square feet of commercial space inside the loop – agreed to make it a joint effort.

Organizers hope to expand it to most other commercial buildings in the uptown loop.

“We’re putting control in the hands of our major customers and we’re making our city one of the most energy-efficient in the world” as energy costs rise, Duke CEO Jim Rogers said in New York, where the plan was announced at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. The Clinton initiative promotes government-private sector partnerships.

Duke worked with Charlotte Center City Partners, the uptown development group, to design a signature test of energy efficiency. It will be the first in a series of public-private projects focused on green values under an umbrella initiative called Envision: Charlotte.

Duke and technology company Cisco will front the $5.3million cost of outfitting Charlotte’s commercial buildings with energy-management equipment. Duke hopes to recover some of its costs through a small energy-efficiency rider that would be added to customer bills.

Apart from saving electricity, one of the goals is to heighten awareness of energy conservation.

Commercial buildings waste about 30 percent of the energy they buy, the Environmental Protection Agency says. Bank of America and Wells Fargo, which together control 10 million square feet uptown, have both set corporate energy-saving goals and erected new towers that meet high efficiency standards.

Charlotte has also staked a claim as an energy capital because of the presence of Duke, 13,000 energy-related jobs in the broader region and training programs such as UNCC’s Energy Production & Infrastructure Center. Read More.

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