The Impact of Energy-Efficiency Upgrades and Other Distributed Energy Resources on a Residential Neighborhood Scale Electrification Retrofit

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Ambitious targets for carbon emissions reductions are highlighting new challenges for electrification strategies, leading to an increased focus on building load flexibility and energy management to complement the variability inherent in renewable energy generation. Over the next decade millions of existing homes could undergo electrification retrofits, and there is an urgent need to understand the potential impacts of electrifying major residential loads such as water and space heating on community load characteristics, resident energy bills, and the utility's distribution system. Behind-the-meter distributed energy resources (DERs), including efficiency measures, photovoltaics (PV), battery storage, managed electric vehicle (EV) charging, and controls such as home energy management systems (HEMS), can significantly alter a neighborhood's load profile and provide benefits to both the residents and the grid. We present a novel approach to characterizing the impact of a hypothetical neighborhood-scale residential retrofit program on individual homes’ energy use profiles, associated utility bills, and the local distribution system. We modeled a mixed-fuel community of 30 single-family homes in Denver, Colorado, and compared the effects of retrofit scenarios ranging from conventional energy-efficiency upgrades to full electrification with and without more advanced DER technologies. We analyzed which packages of DERs most reliably enable demand flexibility in response to a time-of-use (TOU) rate for this and similar neighborhoods. Our buildings-to-grid co-simulation framework includes a generic secondary distribution feeder model to capture voltage profiles, transformer loading, and other grid impacts in each case. We also calculated the carbon emissions associated with energy use in the community. The methodology developed here can be broadly applied to community-scale beneficial electrification studies in other regions, climates, utility infrastructures, and building typologies to make specific, targeted recommendations based on quantified projections of energy demand in any given community. Our findings indicate that residential electrification can be achieved without negatively impacting the monthly utility bill, and that a combination of conventional energy-efficiency measures, PV, battery, controls, and managed EV charging to maximize a community's demand flexibility is a promising strategy. Adding DERs (especially PV) as part of efficient electrification produces much bigger savings than efficient electrification without DERs. A key barrier is that upgrades require upfront costs, and modest utility bill savings result in long payback periods.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number120256
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-81112


  • Decarbonization
  • Demand flexibility
  • Distributed energy resources
  • Electrification
  • Residential community
  • Retrofit


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