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Notes from the Grid Edge: Modern Measurement Can Lead to Better Programs

Notes from the Grid Edge: Modern Measurement Can Lead to Better Programs
December 17, 2015 Dan Zasloff
Measuring Tape

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP) EM&V Forum both released papers in December about key trends in the energy efficiency industry, specifically related to the role of information and communication technologies (ICT), data analytics and, software-as-a-service tools for improving program performance with automated measurement.

These two well-respected organizations make it clear that transformational technology and tools have arrived that can unlock a tremendous amount of value for energy efficiency programs. Importantly, even though many of these tools are rooted in the ability to measure energy savings, their uses, and benefits, go far beyond the field of EM&V.  According to the ACEEE, “[b]y incorporating ICT into the design and management of their services, program administrators and evaluators will be able to improve the effectiveness of their actions and reduce their operating costs.”

Furthermore, as the NEEP paper states, “automated consumption data analysis can provide rapid feedback to programs whether or not this analysis is used as the final evaluated savings” [emphasis mine]. This last phrase is worth highlighting, as this topic arises repeatedly in our discussions with regulators, utilities, evaluators, and stakeholders across the country. Not every utility, state, and region is ready, willing or planning to use meter data as part of their formal evaluation regime. Whether this would be of benefit and, if so, when this should occur, is a complex and highly localized conversation occurring across the country. What is important, as ACEEE points out, is that the conversation has no impact on the value that new analytical tools provide to improve program cost-effectiveness and overall performance NOW.

These independent findings from ACEEE and NEEP confirm exactly what we are seeing in the field. Our clients are using Optix Quantify to optimize their programs in several specific ways:

One of our utility clients switched implementers during a program year. The switch was made in April, and by August, Quantify was able to show that the realization rate on projects completed after the transition improved from 44% to 89% (See Figure 1). Without Quantify, it might have been a full year or more before the utility received this information. Instead, this feedback immediately validated the investment in program implementation and enabled our client to set a new benchmark of expected performance for their implementation contractor.

Figure 1. Validating program changes and investments through metered savings

Program-optimization-01-2016-BLOG

Next, program administrators are managing contractors and trade allies with a variety of metrics, but not on the actual savings they deliver to their customers. For example, one client using Quantify discovered that the contractor with the highest volume, and highest expected savings, actually had the lowest actual performance. The savings claimed by this trade ally were simply not being realized at the customer meter (see upper left quadrant of Figure 2 below). Measuring savings at the meter and placing these findings in the hands of the program manager led to immediate corrective action. This benefited the program, the utility and the customers directly.

Figure 2. Assessing contractor performance through metered savings

Contractor-Performance-2x2-BLOG

Additionally, program administrators are using automated measurement data to capture the value of remote QA/QC. This helps drive down the costs of on-site inspections and to uncover issues that compromise program cost effectiveness. One client using Quantify discovered that more than 10 percent of customers in a particular program were receiving rebates for replacing electric furnaces that never existed. Another client is seeking to significantly slash their QA/QC costs by using Quantify to identify the types of projects that most require on-site inspection.

As a final example, continuous and automated feedback on program performance allows DSM program administrators to capture best practices and identify possible savings that are “left on the table.” One of our clients running Quantify identified one of their highest volume measures was achieving well over 100% of the expected savings. This prompted a collaborative conversation with their third-party evaluator to investigate whether additional savings could be claimed from this measure to improve overall program cost effectiveness.

Our clients believe that when things are measured, they tend to improve. The NEEP and ACEEE papers make this same point: automated measurement enables a continuous program improvement cycle, one that promotes effective actions and can directly reduce operating costs.

By: Tim Guiterman, Director of Quantify Solutions