I recently had a conversation with a fellow evaluator in the energy efficiency field, that is, someone who has been involved in the practice of measuring the unmeasurable: the energy savings from energy efficiency projects. But evaluators don’t only estimate energy savings, they use this quantitative data in conjunction with qualitative information, typically gathered through surveys, interviews and research, to assess the effectiveness of a program dedicated to, you guessed it, saving energy. My counterpart in this conversation had been involved in the evaluation, measurement and verification (EM&V) field for over two decades. We discussed how I had recently left a great position as Associate Director at Navigant, having gotten my start in the EM&V field at Summit Blue. I casually mentioned that in my new role as Director of EM&V Solutions at EnergySavvy, where my focus is on real-time, measure-as-you-go software tools, I am a “recovering evaluator.” She quickly corrected me. “You are now an empowered evaluator.” I like that term. And I think she’s right.
So why did I leave an established consulting firm staffed with industry leading experts, hundreds of years of combined experience, great clients and lots of growth potential? Or in the words of a friend and colleague, “why bet your career on making an energy efficiency meter?”
The answer to that question is fairly simple. Like most energy engineers and evaluators I have known, I want to improve on the status quo. I want to make things better. The job of the evaluation professional in any field, ranging from energy to public health to education, is to provide a systematic assessment of program effectiveness to ensure accountability and improve program delivery. However, as cited in the above quote by evaluator guru Michael Quinn Patton, evaluation gets a bad rap for being static and slow to change. Why is this the case? And, why do I hear so much more griping and complaining about energy efficiency evaluation now that I’ve stepped away from actually doing evaluation work?
The State and Local Energy Efficiency Action Network’s (SEE Action) EM&V working group summed it up best: “EM&V is sometimes seen as expensive, not credible, not timely, not transparent, and as a burden, not a benefit.” What I do at EnergySavvy directly addresses these key challenges (while not attempting to replace traditional EM&V) and offers solutions for other critical issues (e.g., quantifying efficiency’s impacts on relieving load pocket constraints).
As an evaluator, I can counter and explain many of the reasons for these challenges, but in the end, they represent significant roadblocks on the path to making energy efficiency a credible, valued resource in the market.
So when I learned that EnergySavvy was seeking someone to help them bring their solution to these challenges to the market, and lead the charge for a new era of evaluation, or EM&V 2.0, I was intrigued. In case you’re not familiar with the company, EnergySavvy uses cloud-based software to engage customers, automate demand-side management programs and quantify results. As I learned about them and the position, it quickly became clear that the only group who will get this done is a company like EnergySavvy: one that provides innovative software solutions to utilities and has a track record of successfully delivering to its clients. I read the three-part series written by EnergySavvy’s CEO, Aaron Goldfeder in Electric Light & Power, and I immediately knew that this company had the ability to actually nudge EM&V into the future. I jumped in head first.
As outlined by SEE Action, traditional EM&V methods reach a point of diminishing returns where the incremental cost to improve certainty exceeds the incremental value of better information:
However, measure-as-you-go tools enable sophisticated analyses to be automated and executed continuously. We can examine the metered savings from every participant in an efficiency program and incorporate a comparison group analysis of the entire population of non-participating customers, resulting in net savings from actual meter readings.
What this really does is break this traditional diagram on both curves. Figure 2 below illustrates three key points. (1) Measure-as-you-go software flattens out the cost curve, as obtaining additional data using modern cloud computing has negligible costs. (2) The value curve in the new paradigm doesn’t drop off. In fact, we create new value as we get timelier and more granular data on the impacts of energy efficiency actions. (3) Even better, it just makes sense to use all the data available, as we’ll hit the information limit (i.e., no more available customer data to input) before the two curves ever cross, and that means these new tools empower EM&V to add value in ways it never has before.
Figure 2. Measure-as-you-go drives new value while flattening the cost curve
So I think my counterpart was right: I do feel like an empowered evaluator. And at EnergySavvy, we’re empowering not only evaluation, but the energy efficiency market at large, by bringing to bear the first energy efficiency net meter that can quantify the value of efficiency investments; transforming the counterfactual into a reliable resource that can compete with traditional power generation.
In my next post, I’ll dive deeper into our measure-as-you-go solution and what this means for DSM program administrators, regulators, energy efficiency contractors and evaluation firms. In the meantime, comment below to drop me a line and let me know what you think.
By: Tim Guiterman, EnergySavvy’s Director of EM&V Solutions