It all began with a spark. Back in the prehistoric era, animals, plants and even our ancestors decayed and returned to the soil, becoming the resources we now call "fossil fuels." Compressed into the earth in the form of oil and coal, fossil fuels gave us the power to create electricity by burning remnants of our past, offering us a limited catalogue for the future. The spark, created through steam, is absorbed by generators that direct current through transformers and power lines until we turn on the television, with just the right amount of voltage. At this rate, the world consumes more than it produces and demand outmatches a quickly fading supply.
With buildings accounting for 72 percent of electricity consumption in the United States, the U.S. Green Building Council® (USGBC) has had a long focus on decreasing energy use through efficiency measures—specifically, reducing the amount of energy used to perform a certain task or service such as lighting, heating or cooling. In 2010, a LEED® pilot credit was introduced to increase participation in demand response technologies and programs with the intent to make energy generation and distribution systems more efficient, increase grid reliability and reduce environmental impacts alongside greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Based on the fast uptake of this pilot credit, Demand Response became a full credit in the LEED v4 rating system.
Through the Demand Response credit, USGBC has begun to better understand the importance of interconnectivity between energy-use decisions and the effects on outside power generation and capacity, resulting in Green Business Certification Inc.™ (GBCI®), acquiring PEER®—Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal. PEER is the driving force behind the vision to transform the way power systems are designed and operated. Modeled after LEED, PEER helps fill a major gap in the smart grid movement by providing a rating system with a clear and concise set of criteria for assessing system performance and verifying that significant measurable outcomes have been achieved. It integrates the principles of quality, innovation and excellence, and shifts the current power industry focus from technology to specific outcomes that improve consumers’ lives and decrease negative environmental impacts—benefiting society as a whole.
PEER supports USGBC’s vision of an electric grid that operates dynamically, reliably and efficiently to leverage real-time feedback to and from building owners. While PEER is not the sole answer to our shortage of fossil fuels, it empowers those who live, breathe and consume in buildings to take action against the expense of losing one of our most valuable resources, electricity. Alertness needs to lead to proactive change rather than a passive reaction to a deteriorating situation.
The need for electricity isn’t a question of if we run out, but when we will run out of resources to sustain ourselves. Our limited supply of fossil fuels drives a sense of urgency for sustainable energy use. Renewable resources such as sunlight, wind and falling water, among others, point the way toward a growing economy of much-needed modern electricity systems. Renewables are slowly picking up steam (pun intended), and while rating systems such as PEER might not have all the answers to our forthcoming shortages, they ask grid operators the right questions—and of course, keep our televisions running.