Filip: Hey guys. Welcome everybody. Welcome to Technology and Renewables, season 2, 2023. Today with us we have Rolf Bienert from OpenADR. Rolf, do you want to go ahead and introduce yourself?
Rolf: Absolutely. It’s great to be here again. Thanks for having me, Filip. I’m really looking forward to the conversation. I’m the Technical and Managing Director of the OpenADR Alliance, a nonprofit organization managing the OpenADR standard. We’ve known each other for a while, so I’m glad to be here and chat a bit.
Filip: Yeah, definitely. I think we met at DTech last year and we’ve been talking ever since. I also invited Paweł from Codibly to join us. Paweł is a solution architect at Codibly, and he’s also an expert in DR Protocols and DR standards, like OpenADR, IEEE 2030.5, and Energy Hop. So he’ll be probably able to add a little bit more technicality to the discussion and the conversation we’re gonna be having today.
Paweł: Hi. It’s nice to be here.
Filip: Last season you had a conversation with Bart and you did an overview of OpenADR. You told us, told everybody, a little bit about OpenADR and I wanted to pick up on that conversation and talk to you about how has the competitive landscape changed for you, and what’s happened over the last couple of months. What’s changed and what would you say that landscape looks like for OpenADR right now?
Rolf: That’s actually a good question. You know, I really have to think about that for a moment. Time flies and, luckily, we seem to be more or less past Covid. So we have been seeing meetings and conferences picking up again, and I’m only mentioning that really because that gives you a bit of a pulse, right? It gives you a feel, you know, how people feel about everything and how it progresses. For us, certainly, the whole EV landscape has been still the main business growth area here. But before I get into that a little bit more, maybe just briefly, I think we had that already on our last call, but there’s one thing I wanted to mention: The OpenADR Alliance also has added the CTA-2045, the Eco Port certification program. And, certainly, since the last call, there have now actually been some certified products, so we are actually seeing water heaters that have universal port integrated, and we are seeing a number of modules out there as well. It’s on our website. And in fact, I have something like six or seven other products in the pipeline where people are actively working on more appliances there.
If you recall, Washington State in the US has a mandate which now was put into place. It was delayed a little bit because of Covid, supply chain issues, and things like that. But it is now in place. So I think it will be very interesting to follow that development for these appliances, in particular the water heaters.
But maybe let’s circle briefly back. I think we had that already in place or almost in place during the last call, but one of the key aspects is that we are seeing different types of companies coming into this arena, like Ford Motor Company. They joined our board of directors and traditionally, of course, like in a board of directors and in an alliance like Open ADR, we always had just control guys, controls manufacturers, maybe some utilities, maybe some aggregators, and so on. And then the last two or three years, we had this influx of all these charging systems and charging management systems, but having fought in there all of a sudden it is a completely different playing field.
Filip: Yeah, absolutely, that is a different playing field. And that brings me to a couple of questions that popped into my mind when you were just talking. One thing that you mentioned is more and more hard work getting certified, and we can talk a little bit about certification. We know from our implementations with various companies of OpenADR that not everybody wants to get certified. So what are the benefits of actually getting certified by the OpenADR Alliance? What does that bring to the table and why should everybody do it?
Rolf: Yeah, very good follow-up here. I think you’re absolutely right. You do not need to be certified, and I’m probably a bad salesperson here and hopefully, nobody from the board will come after me, but the Open ADR stand is completely free. It’s free of royalties, free of any patents or anything. You can download a spec from our website or you can buy it through the IEC 62746-10-1. It’s both the same thing really. So you can take it off the website. You can build it in and say you’re of open ADR.
Only like you said, Filip, if you want to be certified, then you need to go through our process. And that process is what actually provides the benefits because you have to go through an accredited test house. The test houses that we work with, we have I think about nine or so by now across the world, go through a training process so they understand how the protocol works, and they all use the exact same test tool. The test tool was developed by us together with a test tool vendor. And the advantage here is that everybody tests against the same reference, if you will.
And does it mean that you can take the product out of the box, just plug it in and it works? Well, yes and no. It works on a protocol connectivity level, right? Unfortunately, I think in the demand response and the demand site management space, we are not quite there yet that every utility does the same type of programs and so on. There will still be a little bit of a setup that is necessary, simply to figure out: okay, what is the utility sending, what are the timeframes, and so on. But again, the protocol itself will be unaffected. The protocol itself is tested and it works. And in addition to that, of course, we are testing the security layer. We are making sure that only the appropriate certificates are being accepted and if somebody sends an expired or wrong one, it will be rejected and things like that, so TLS 1.2 functionality will be examined there too. Hopefully, all that legwork stuff will work after the certification.
Paweł: And it’s also an interesting topic in regard to our clients and the work that we are doing for them. So we see more and more interest in the demand response in general, not only as a place somewhere in the timeline of the project, but more of our clients when they design new systems, they want to introduce demand response from the start on, or if they have something already they’re interested in building something compliant with the demand. One of the great things about OpenADR is that it’s easy to introduce because there’s excellent documentation. Of course, other protocols also have something to implement but the difficulty with the landscape is, almost everyone now wants to join the demand response party. But the difficulty is exactly what he said. So when it comes to the response programs, it’s easy to implement protocol because we have specification we can do that, but then it’s all down to the utilities which must provide ways of integration. So this is something I think, one of the key points for the upcoming future to work closer with: utilities, and bringing the demand response from the wider public. And I think it’s gonna be interesting.
Filip: Yeah. And the interesting thing here, just to touch upon that, is what’s actually happening. So what happened in California, right? In California, they introduced California Rule 21which basically puts a lot more specifics into what demand response is supposed to be and what it is supposed to look like. I know that these types of legal actions have an effect on the landscape, both in a positive and negative way. We want to stay away from monopoly as much as we can, so suggesting a specific protocol can be very challenging and it can be something that will be misused. On the other hand, introducing these types of legal actions, what it does is, as Paweł said, it kind of forces utilities to be a lot more specific about how they approach the programs.
Rolf: Yeah, exactly. You mentioned California Rule 21. It’s actually an interesting example here because Rule 21 is not necessarily really on the demand response side, right? So Rule 21 is more concerned, let’s say in general, about power quality, so we are talking grid code here.
So the ability of an inverter to open up its interface really. And, I think that often the terminology kind of overlaps, like when people talk and they say DER and they say, oh, then you have to have Rule 21, and maybe 2030.5 and things like that. That is really only true for the grid code aspect. If you do want to ensure that all the inverters in your territory are somewhat accessible to set parameters, curve paths, and things like that, then that is one aspect there.
The grid code that you may have to adjust once a year, twice a year, once a month, once a week. I think nobody really knows yet. But then to really manage the capacity? I mean, obviously these DERs, they represent a huge capacity, especially when we also talk vehicle to grid, and all of a sudden we have these huge batteries. And that’s obviously almost like a traditional OpenADR application where you can not regulate really, but try to influence up and down regulation for this. And by the way, for instance, we also have things like title 24 which sits on a completely different spectrum. I think it’s a California Energy Commission standard, and it’s essentially the building code for commercial buildings. So, in other words, anybody that builds a new commercial facility retrofits one, renovates one, and so on.
We’ll need to, use the building code, right? I mean, that’s starting with simple stuff like doors, exits, toilets, etc. But then one section of it in the building code actually requires these commercial buildings to have an OpenADR interface, for instance.
And there are specific requirements. For lighting, for example, you have to be able to dim the lights to a certain degree, HVAC, and so on and so forth. We are seeing these regulations, but you are right Filip, I think it’s still kinda rare that they really call out standards. Often it’s in the site note, or Rule 21 says that 2030.5 is one of the standards, others are possible. So I don’t know what that really then means in the end.
Filip: Especially since 2030.5 is fairly new and there aren’t really that many cases of it being implemented worldwide. I know this is something that we are considering or our clients are considering on some of the projects we’re working on, and we have been advising in that regard as well. But it is a challenge where we have been asked about how many of these implementations we have seen, and the truth is there haven’t been many yet. So, it is a fairly new thing.
Rolf: To be honest, I think 2030.5 is a great standard. I know a lot of people that wrote that personally there, they’re great, great guys, I’ve worked with them and known them for a long time, so I have no doubt it’s a good standard and I think it will be important for inverters. My question that’s also my personal opinion is always: okay, up to which level does this inverter control need to go? And does the utility really want to control a million inverters directly and get all the service calls?
Filip: Yeah, probably not.
Paweł: And there’s also the question of adoption. So 2030.5 is a quick protocol, but it’s much more vast than OpenADR, so not everybody is going to implement it unless there are wider standardizations in terms of the API of the importers themselves. So it’s much more difficult to implement that protocol. That’s impossible of course, but if you want to see the wider adoption of the demo response protocols in general, to stabilize the grid, I think there is room for every protocol there, and there is certainly space for standardization in terms of the low because without it there are no important rules for the manufacturers to introduce those concepts to their systems. So we’ll be facing more issues which we have now. And every manufacturer can have their own API, and we can integrate with all of them. But if you want to see exactly this wide adoption, I think standardization would be a great thing. So I’m personally glad.
Rolf: I think Paweł you hit the nail on the head. I mean, there are a lot of different types of applications that need different tools. When it comes to OpenADR, we are happy to just provide those informational elements from the top. And then you have to pick the right toolbox to do what you need. Whether this is like OCPP for chargers, 2030.5, EEBUS, or whatever you need in the building.
And in fact, we started also discussions with a residential building control standards group. It’s still pretty early, so I can’t really mention much there yet. But even in a residential building they want to be able to say, in a home energy management system or in-home devices, we want to be able to understand what the grid is telling us, we want to take that, then analyze that and propagate it in a residential network. So I think we will see more of that, and as Paweł said, all these standards I think will work well together. And anybody that says, oh, we need one standard for it… That’s just not gonna happen.
Filip: And do you think that’s going to be the case where specific standards are gonna specialize towards specific types of devices? For example, you mentioned inverters, we mentioned EV in the beginning and when it comes to the implementation, we’ve done mostly with OpenADR. Do you think that’s going to be the case or do you think it’s just going to be more of a case where it’s gonna depend on the situation and on what is needed for that specific implementation?
Rolf: You know, that’s an interesting question. I’ve never looked at it from that perspective, but I’m thinking it would be more about the objective that you’re trying to achieve. I mean, sure, if we’re talking about residential building automation, everybody wants IoT.
And personally, if I want IoT, I don’t really want like six or seven apps on my phone for different systems in my house. I want one app where I can see my solar and can maybe charge my car, and so on and so forth. So I think we will see probably, I wouldn’t call it a winner, but maybe some prevailing standard in like home automation, commercial building automation and so on, but, again, as far as the energy is concerned, it really depends on what you want to do or what’s the objective. As we said earlier with Rule 21, is the objective to make sure inverters are not harming the grid code, direct settings of the parameters, or the objective is to use the capacity that people have available? Even these two things, again, often kinda used interchangeably are not the same. I think it will almost be a matter of the use case and the objective.
Filip: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. And speaking of that, we’ve mentioned a couple of different scenarios and a couple of different things that will be happening most likely. We said that the challenges that we’re facing are: A. utilities are in the line when it comes to demand response programs. We’ve also mentioned that there is a lack of standardization for hardware manufacturers when it comes to being applicable and everybody can do their own thing which we’ve already seen with EV years ago, and now we’re starting to look at more and more standardization in the markets. So what do you think is going to be the road for the type of standards like OpenADR and then proper grid management, proper energy management, and the upcoming future? Which way are we going to be leaning and what are going to be the solutions that will be implemented to make sure that we don’t create another market, which will be unusable because of the fact that we will have so many available solutions? Everybody will have their own thing and it’ll be really hard to implement?
Rolf: Maybe this is wishful thinking here but I’m almost thinking that we will actually see more harmonization. I’m kind of shocked that I’m saying that right now, to be honest, and here’s the reason why. When I look 10 years back, in fact, I’m looking at the date here, pretty exactly 10 years ago, OpenADR 2.0 B was published. All the utilities did demand response programs, but they were all kind of anchored in their tariffs. They were like specific ideas that they had on how to engage the customers. But nonetheless, at the end of the day, it was still pretty much the same. Often utilities 10 years ago would tell me: oh, we cannot use OpenADR because we are different than, let’s say, a California utility.
And my answer was always: so you’re not selling power for money, right? I don’t really care where, or how the prices are generated. If you have a regulated market and hard price, I don’t really care, from a downstream perspective. If you talk to the customer, just simply give them price information or tell them if they should use more or less energy, maybe heckle with them for some energy. Hey, can you discharge your car? Or pump the solar into the grid right now because I need it? Or you can charge the car now because it’s cheap. I think that part is the same and I think that’s where things naturally kind of gravitate to now. It used to be that the utilities wanted to build everything into their control structure. I really should have that handy here on my desk. But it’s ok. There’s this nice picture, I think the European Union used it, NIST used it, many other standards use it. It looks like a parking garage with many different levels and pillars and different areas, and it’s the customer domain, the transmission, distribution, and then there are like a million standards around it. And, that’s all good and fine. When you’re talking about interconnected electricity networks, different goods like in Europe, everything interconnected. In the US, maybe a little more disconnected and things like that. But when you talk about the customer, they are not in that parking garage, literally. I mean, they’re sitting next to it and I’m just wondering what’s going on. And if you wanna talk to these customers, you gotta come out of that huge spiderweb of different standards. And I think that’s where a number of these industry-driven standards, OpenADR, maybe even 2030.5, and a few of these will shine and are much better than let’s say these DNP3 standards because they are just complicated. I think we are starting to see a bit more harmonization when it comes to EV charging networks. We’re seeing more utilities using similar requirements for those. And then, if you do use it for EV charging OpenADR OCPP, you have now a whole set of systems that do both of these standards. And I’m hoping, again, maybe wishful thinking, but I’m hoping that it will simply make it so easy for utilities to do that, that they don’t even say, I need to tweak this a little bit, and that a little bit and that a little bit, and all of a sudden it’s not a standard anymore and now I have no vendor.
Filip: Absolutely. Yeah. I agree with you. From our perspective, that’s also the common challenge where there are so many exceptions to our rule, that the rules, stop being applicable. And we always laugh about this, as we’re based in Poland and the Polish language is full of exceptions. There are no rules to the Polish language other than every rule has an exception. So, I absolutely see where you’re coming from.
Maybe to wrap this up, because I don’t wanna make you sell all of the goods in this one video cast, we’ve already been to DTech this year. We’ve seen Inter Solar. Both of the conferences, I feel like, have brought a lot more people to them this year than last year. I think we’ve already shaken the pandemic and we’re used to coming back to life when it comes to these sorts of events. So where will we also see you this year Rolf? I know that we’ll be for sure going to The Smarter E in Munich and I think we’ll even be exhibiting there. I know we’re for sure exhibiting and seeing each other at RE+ SPI. Are there any other conferences or events that you’ll be going to this year?
Rolf: Yeah, you had a good list there already. I mean, the only other one I would add, of course as a bit of self-promotion here is that we actually decided to have an Open ADR User Conference in Europe. Right now it’s scheduled for early June in London. A few initial emails went out for that. The reason behind picking London was really that, the UK has been really, really active in the last few years. They wrote OpenADR in some of their smart appliance standards and they have a big project out there with I believe 15 or more companies working on it, and I think first it’s sort of like a life test bet than the kind of like a lab test bet, and then devices for end-to-end connectivity of smart appliances and transitioning to smart inverters and EV charging. So we said, hey, why not have that conference in the UK in early June and bring some of these people together, because often, as you are well aware Filip, you go to conferences and you hear people saying that we need flexibility, we need demand response. But everybody seems to be just not quite there.
So we are hoping to go in there. We bring a number of people and it’s kind of the flow here of the conferences that we bring a number of people maybe from the US, some from Europe, that say: you know, here’s how our demand response works with Open ADR, of course, ideally, you know, here’s how it’s running right now. This is not science fiction. This is literally running at this very moment I think this year California had, I don’t know, like 20 or 30 flex alerts for their peak load management because of the hot days.
But anyways, so that’s the idea showing how OpenADR can then work actually with some of the other standards, as we mentioned earlier, OCPP and such, and then of course we also wanna hear a little bit from the UK team there what they’re up to. And then we do wanna dive a little more specifically into EV charging because that’s just simply the big topic. And maybe Codibly will be there as well.
Filip: I think we won’t miss it for sure.
Rolf: And if you just go to our website, open ADR.org, there’s a big icon in the middle if you wanna see more info on the conference.
Filip: Okay. Thank you very much for the conversation today. I think this is a good moment to wrap things up. We’re right under 30 minutes so people should be able to survive through this. Rolf thanks a lot for being here. Thanks for doing the Technology and Renewables again this year. I think we will see each other at multiple conferences. I think we are going to attend the OpenADR conference and hopefully, we’ll be able to discuss more and have some news for everybody at the conference as well. Okay, thank you very much.
Rolf: Always fun. Thanks for having me. Have a good one. Take care, everybody.
Paweł: Bye bye.