Methods and Devices for Energy Demand Management

Technology #13404

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Jacob Beal
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT
Jonathan Bachrach
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT
Managed By
Christopher Noble
MIT Technology Licensing Officer - Clean and Renewable Energy
Patent Protection

Methods and apparatus for energy demand management

US Patent 8,583,291

Methods and apparatus for energy demand management

US Patent 8271147
Fast Precise Distributed Control for Energy Demand Management
Self-Adaptive and Self-Organizing Systems (SASO), 2012 IEEE Sixth International Conference, pp.187,192, 10-14 Sept. 2012
Distributed Control for Small Customer Energy Demand Management
Self-Adaptive and Self-Organizing Systems (SASO), 2010 4th IEEE International Conference, pp.11,20, Sept. 27 2010-Oct. 1 2010
Precise Mass-Market Energy Demand Management Through Stochastic Distributed Computing
Smart Grid, IEEE Transactions, Vol.4, no.4, pp.2017,2027, Dec. 2013


This invention allows consumers to easily express their energy requirements and device-level priorities to the energy provider, yet requires little to no attention from the consumer on an ongoing basis. The provider can then more easily and flexibly adjust loads and service levels.

Problem Addressed

Energy distribution is plagued by a high variation in energy demand with little control by the distributor. Utility companies often communicate with their customers through their monthly bills and plea to reduce energy consumption when brownouts are likely to occur. Peak electrical consumption, however, is much higher than average consumption, and imposes high costs in providing surge capacity, and brownouts and blackouts when capacity is not sufficient.


Devices can either have a built in controller, or be plugged into an outlet through one. These controllers have four settings ("green", "yellow", "red", and "black") and an override button that the consumer can use to ensure energy demand is not cut off.  The four colors correspond to the following:

  • Green: Optional, service can be cut off anytime
  • Yellow: Flexible, service can be cut off when the grid is under strain
  • Red: Important, service can be cut off only during emergencies.
  • Black: Critical, service will never be cut off

These consumer controllers use wireless communication to communicate with other nearby controllers. Additionally, the consumer's electrical meter also contains another controller which will allow it to communicate with nearby meter controllers through a second interface with longer range, forming a city-wide mesh network.

Finally, the utility companies also maintain one or more demand controllers that are integrated to its conventional grid control system, such that they are supplied with the current total power demand level and the target power demand level.


  • Consumers: Once consumers express their flexibility in energy demand, the installed system becomes largely invisible. This will also allow consumers to save money on utility bills given that less energy in consumed without them actively managing energy consumption
  • Utility companies: This allows companies to adjust consumer demand to smooth out peaks in demands and reduce the likelihood of power failures and brown-outs
  • Community/Government: Allows an easier alternative to meet those energy conservation targets and prioritizes critical customers (e.g. hospitals) when supply is insufficient or unreliable