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7All benefits values are expressed in net present value at 2014 in 2011 dollars, unless stated otherwise. Energy systems integration optimizes the production, delivery, storage, and consumption of energy across a variety of physical scales.
Explore the animation below to learn more about energy systems integration at different scales.
Utility-scale solar power plants produce megawatts of electricity and are connected to transmission lines. Geothermal power plants use steam produced from reservoirs of hot water found a few miles or more below the Earth's surface to produce electricity. In nuclear plants, a reactor splits uranium atoms into smaller elements, which produces heat in the process. The electricity transmission system is the electric backbone that moves electricity produced at power plants to transformers, which step up the voltage to reduce energy loss while the electricity travels along the grid, and the distribution system. Large rooftop photovoltaic systems and solar community gardens are medium-scale distributed generation systems that connect to the electricity grid. Fleets and mass transit, such as busses and light rail systems, typically deploy medium- and heavy-duty alternative fuel and advanced vehicles. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) provide dispersed and mobile energy storage that can be aggregated. District heating and cooling systems produce hot water, steam, or chilled water at a central plant and then distribute the energy through underground pipes to buildings connected to the system.
A combined heat and power system uses a fuel, such as natural gas, to power a prime mover, such as a gas turbine, to which an electric generator is attached. An electricity distribution system delivers power from the transmission system to end-use applications. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) use electricity stored in batteries to power an electric motor and a fuel, such as gasoline or diesel, to power an internal combustion engine or other propulsion source.
Ground source heat pumps take advantage of the nearly constant temperature of the earth to heat and cool buildings.
Smart meters are advanced utility meters that measure electricity consumption and power quality and communicate the information back to utilities for monitoring and billing purposes. A battery bank is a small, off-grid power system that can provide temporary power for a home or business when all other systems, such as wind and solar generation, are not available. Electricity Pathway: Electricity is an energy carrier that delivers power in the form of electrons from energy sources to points of use. Thermal Pathway: Thermal systems carry energy in liquid or gas form for heating and cooling applications.


Fuels Pathway: Gas and liquid fuels are transmitted through pipes from refineries and natural gas production plants to end-use applications such as building heating systems and transportation fuels.
Data Pathway: Information and communication technologies allow a better understanding and control of systems by linking sensor data from multiple locations to control centers.
At the residential and commercial level, an example of energy systems integration is a combined heat and power system that uses fuel, such as natural gas, to produce heat and electricity simultaneously.
In most cases, these small-scale systems have a single owner, and they operate under a single set of local rules and regulations. At larger regional and national scales, energy systems integration covers geographically dispersed systems such as utility service territories and balancing areas.
These are used by the supplier to calculate how much you owe them for the electricity you have consumed - e.g. Photovoltaic plants (PV), sometimes called central-station PV, use flat module technology to produce electricity. Hydropower is the cheapest way to produce electricity, but there are few places where new dams can be built economically. The heat is used to superheat water into high-pressure steam that drives a turbine generator. These plants use the chemical energy in fossil fuels to superheat water into steam, which drives a turbine generator. The size and structure of these shared systems vary depending on the resources and requirements of the area they serve.
Controlled charging and discharging in public parking garages could provide electric power ancillary services.
Waste heat from an existing industrial operation can also be recovered and used to generate electricity.
A step-down transformer first converts the high-voltage electricity from the transmission lines to lower voltages. Rooftop photovoltaic systems connect to the electric power system via an inverter and can be used to charge batteries. Small-scale wind turbines (100 kW and smaller) typically connect directly to the grid or are used to charge batteries. When used in mass, they have the potential to increase the efficiency of the electric power system and reduce the cost of electricity—with little effect on the lives of energy users. The electric power system delivers electricity primarily from large, central-station power plants via high-voltage transmission and low-voltage distribution systems to customers. Integration also occurs at this scale where systems, such as solar hot water and geothermal pumps, are combined to achieve greater, more efficient power solutions for homes, multifamily units, and commercial buildings.


Typically, a small-scale system is located behind a single meter for each type of energy infrastructure (for example, electrical or fuel), but it can communicate demand and generation information to a higher level. Mixed-use and higher-density developments allow the cost-effective integration of systems such as transportation.
At the community and city level, there are usually multiple owners, but all are within a specific regulatory area, such as a utility service territory or local jurisdiction.
These systems typically integrate much larger generation technologies, such as large wind farms, concentrating solar power plants, large photovoltaic plants, and pumped hydro systems. Concentrating solar power technologies project heat or light using mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays on a heat-transfer material. Grid-to-vehicle charging can occur when demand is low, and vehicle-to-grid discharging can serve as a supply source when demand is high or supply is lost. At larger scales, district plants provide heating and cooling to multiple buildings in urban environments. Energy systems at this scale are typically low-voltage (less than 1,000 V) and range from kilowatts to megawatts in size. A number of technologies can be integrated at a small scale, including transportation applications when used for individual mobility.
At the campus level, an energy management system may need to incorporate a variety of energy sources and manage loads at an aggregated level. The systems operate across multiple regulatory areas and jurisdictions and usually require that a number of regulatory issues be addressed to allow for integration. When demand is high (and therefore wholesale electricity prices are very expensive) the utility company can pass high costs onto the consumer. When demand is low (and therefore wholesale electricity prices are very cheap) the utility company can pass savings to the consumer.
Smart Meters in the UKAt the time of writing (June 2008), smart metering in the UK is still a long way from being rolled out. Some businesses already have smart meters, but virtually no domestic consumers have them as yet. The same website (for Horizon Utilities) also offers these handy tips for shifting load - i.e.



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