03/13/2012 | by Carisa Chappell

As more commercial real estate owners look for ways to cut cost and conserve energy, some are turning to so-called smart grids to help them better regulate their consumption.

David Thomas Osborn, vice president for energy solutions with CoR Advisors, and REIT.com recently discussed the benefits of smart grids and how the technology is being incorporated into buildings.

REIT.com: Can you explain to us what a smart grid actually does?

David Thomas Osborn: The "smart grid" is a term used for an intelligent power grid that integrates technology and advanced communications for improved reliability, resiliency and quality. In addition, it supports the integration of distributed generation, renewable and alternative energy sources, energy storage, electric vehicles and micro-grids. The benefits for building owners include significant cost savings by strategically balancing the building's energy load, reducing peak demand charges, participating in demand response programs and even selling excess capacity back to the grid at market prices.

REIT.com: What are some ways that building owners can save money by integrating smart grids?

Osborn: The smart grid will allow building owners to realize more savings by increasing opportunities for participation in demand response programs; wholesale electricity markets through energy load shifting; and net metering programs for customer-sited distributed generation.

REIT.com: How is the smart grid going to affect how buildings are operated in the future?

Osborn: Buildings of the future will act as electric energy storage centers for the power grid network. They will replace the need for the dirty spinning reserves needed today to meet peak loads and grid fluctuations. Buildings will not only be operated to minimize energy consumption, but will be operated to optimize when energy is consumed relative to electric market spot pricing. Single-building operation will no longer be a silo unto itself. Instead, buildings of the future will have visibility into, and visibility from the power grid network.

REIT.com: Do you think that more building owners are beginning to have a better understanding of the various energy management solutions

Osborn: Yes. Increasing energy pricing has led building owners and tenants to focus more on energy savings. Participation in education seminars/meetings/conferences for energy management solutions and energy conservation measures is on the rise. Additionally, we are seeing more energy management solutions implemented.