Developers and investors alike are asking a question more frequently when assessing a site: “Is there a smart grid?” In Canada, the answer is increasingly yes, and increasingly smart.
Blackouts and brownouts come at a tremendous cost to the economy in general — but to manufacturers, when the production line stops, there are immediate and profound consequences to the bottom line. Whether the manufacturer focuses on clean technology and software or is a traditional manufacturer in the aerospace or automotive world, consistent access to reliable power, the unpredictability of storm events and security issues all stand out as top concerns.
In response to these concerns, Canadian buildings and their local smart grids are ready for a more symbiotic relationship. One beacon of change, particularly in Canada, comes from the province of Ontario, which has recently accomplished moving to a coal-free electrical grid. While coal-free may not make sense for every province, it has helped the movement of other advances, like smart grid innovations and the use of renewables, from “good idea” to an actual installed reality, responsive to the various needs of buildings and the people inside them.
Smart grids consist of interconnected power loads and distributed energy resources – including renewable energy – that act as a single controllable entity. Within a smart grid, discrete elements can connect or disconnect from the grid, enabling them to operate in both grid-connected or island mode. This greatly improves the flexibility, resiliency and efficiency of electrical supply, while also making changes to how building operators interact with the building.
Smart Grid Leadership
Luckily for Canadian manufacturers, Canada is a leader in the development of smart grid technology. According to a 2014 report from the Global Smart Grid Federation, as of 2007, Canada has become an early adopter of the technology. The provinces most active in smart grid development include Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.
Many manufacturing facilities are uniquely suited to contribute to the grid and thus produce energy, with the land and the zoning to install many types of renewable energy power generation such as solar panel “farms” or wind turbines. Offering those onsite also increases reliability; when the grid goes down, onsite power can be generated at the source, making buildings more resilient and efficient.
As this technology continues to advance and more manufacturing companies opt-in to make their businesses increasingly environmentally friendly, we expect that the application of smart energy will continue to gain momentum, with Canadian manufacturers leading the way for the rest of the world.
Hear more about energy issues during Oil’s Implosion or Explosion: Energy’s Impact on Commercial Real Estate at the Commercial Real Estate Conference in Toronto on Wednesday, October 14, 4:15-5 p.m., moderated by Bruce Rutherford, International Director, JLL.
Marshall Toner is Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Industrial for JLL Canada