ZNE Buildings

ZNE Building and Efficiency Initiatives

ZNE Alliance is sponsoring several projects to demonstrate transformational approaches to Building Decarbonization, ZNE Residential Development, and Energy Efficiency Finance.  These include:

  • Automated Building Energy Management System Project (ACCO-BEMS) -- with MelRok, the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, Pomona College, and the California Energy Commission (CEC)

  • Microgrid-Powered ZNE Housing Developments -- with GridScape, Energy Solutions, the City of Lancaster, and the CEC

  • Metered Energy Efficiency Transaction Structure (MEETS) – with the MEETS Coalition


The Automated Cloud-based Continuously Optimizing Building Energy Management System (ACCO – BEMS)

The Automated Cloud-based Continuously Optimizing Building Energy Management System (ACCO – BEMS) cost-effectively overcomes limitations of existing BEMS through AI-enabled and automated control of energy-related building devices, systems, and sensors. Developed by MelRok in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), ACCO-BEMS will demonstrate 20%+ reduction of building energy use in a large campus setting through automated optimization of energy controls.

Pomona College: Site of the first deployment of the Automated Cloud-based Continuously Optimizing Building Energy Management System (ACCO – BEMS), developed by MelRok, and deployed partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, the ZNE Alliance, and the California Energy Commission.

The Challenge: In a study of 24 university buildings in California (Mills 2009), buildings were observed to “drift” from their optimum performance achievable through continuous commissioning. This drift can lead to more than 40% waste in the building’s total energy consumption.  Even so, the return on investment in costly manual interventions to correct drift is not compelling for most building owners, given that re-commissioning may need to be repeated as often as every few months to sustain the savings. Most existing Building Energy Management Systems fail to optimize energy use over the long term because pre-set settings become rapidly obsolete, and most BEMS are not able to continuously and automatically optimize set points over time for key systems, such as variable frequency drives, and HVAC valve and damper positions. Most BEMS also do not respond dynamically to changes in building schedules and room occupancy, and are not cognizant of current and forecasted environmental factors and grid conditions that would enable optimization of energy use.


Project Innovation:  To address these challenges, the ACCO-BEMS product, in development by MelRok for 5+ years, has been designed to continuously optimize the management of building sensors, energy consuming devices, and existing energy management systems through an AI-enabled analytics engine. The MelRok system utilizes: 1) a universal cloud-connected gateway; 2) extremely wide networking bandwidth, 3) high-level encrypted security; 4) elastic cloud storage and processing capacity; and 5) real-time access to web-resident databases to optimize for environmental and device-level attributes. ACCO-BEMS can be implemented as either a replacement for existing BEMS, or as a supplementary overlay to existing BEMS.


Anticipated Benefits: ACCO-BEMS will reduce energy use by an estimated 20%+, reduce building operational costs, and improve occupant comfort. The Project will lead to almost two gigawatt hours (GWh) of annual energy savings in Pomona College alone, with potential for an additional six GWh annually across the five-college Claremont College Consortium. The Project will also facilitate ACCO-BEMS technology adoption across other education and corporate facilities in the LA Basin. Anticipated adoption rates of ACCO-BEMS in existing and new ACCO-BEMS deployment sites will enable local annual energy savings of ~21 GWh annually by 2020.


In addition to sustained energy savings, ACCO-BEMS will enable real-time automated demand response (ADR) capability in buildings where it is deployed.  Pomona College peaks at more than 4 MW load, with the rest of the Claremont colleges peaking at 10 MW. Deploying ACCO-BEMS across these colleges will enable more than 1MW of ADR potential.


Reaching a Broader Market for High-Performance, Automated BEMS:  The ACCO-BEMS Project is designed to accelerate the market for AI-enabled automated BEMS solutions as a distinct breakout category within the larger spectrum of BEMS solutions. As Navigant illustrated in its 2016 industry report on BEMS market growth, a much higher level of functionality is possible as BEMS migrate to AI-enabled energy IoT platforms and SaaS delivery models. The continuously optimizing capabilities of the MelRok ACCO-BEMS will help extend the benefits of automated energy management to the large mid-market of buildings -- in the 10,000 – 100,000 sq. ft. range. Until now, this building cohort has been difficult to serve with current BEMS offerings requiring manual recalibration and active management. By contrast, ACCO-BEMS enables automated data acquisition, analytics, and continuous optimization with minimal on-site inputs. These capabilities are aligned with trends identified by a recent Navigant report on Energy Management Systems. Illustrated in the graphic below, Navigant research underscores that the most capable products are moving from automated fault detection and diagnostics to continuous optimization and integrated management of HVAC, lighting, plug loads, EVSE, and distributed generation.

Automation in the BEMS Market:  Trends in the BEMS marketplace support scaled adoption of  automated BEMS solutions – including MelRok’s AI-enabled ACCO-BEMS. 

(Navigant, 2016)

​Aliso Canyon Energy Partners Network:  As part of the ACCO-BEMS project, ZNE Alliance is convening major Los Angeles area energy users impacted by the rupture of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility. The California PUC and CEC have identified this impact zone as the highest priority target statewide for the implementation of EE measures, as well as new distributed generation and storage. To accelerate deployment of ACCO-BEMS across the region, ZNE Alliance will work with MelRok and the Aliso Energy Partners Network to assess twelve months of smart meter data across ~150 building sites – with the goal of designing a large-scale automated BEMS implementation. The first step in this process will be to generate a normalized baseline to help target ACCO-BEMS deployment at sites with the greatest saving potential. This baseline will also enable accurate measurement and validation of a future ACCO-BEMS deployment. As illustrated in the projections below, scaled adoption of ACCO-BEMS across major building segments could produce substantial local annual energy savings. 

Automated BEMS adoption by key market segments in the L.A. Basin offers potential savings of more than 100 gigawatt hours.  SOURCE: MelRok and Energy & Environmental Economics (E3).