Notes from the Grid Edge

“Summer Rage” at the International Energy Program Evaluation Conference

-By Tim Guiterman

Earlier this month, I was invited to speak on a panel at the International Energy Program Evaluation Conference (IEPEC) in Long Beach, CA. This conference is held in the U.S every two years, and brings out the leading practitioners in the evaluation, measurement and verification (EM&V) field. The panel I spoke on was titled “Survival of the Fittest: Data Analytics and Evaluation.” The panel was designed to draw out the tension between data analytics and traditional evaluation. For those of you following our industry, this is a hot and somewhat divisive topic these days. I joined three other panelists including Dan Violette of Navigant, Ken Kolkebeck of First Fuel, and Ryan Bliss of Research Into Action.

Leading up to the IEPEC, a former colleague of mine told me that every summer, something in the energy efficiency industry becomes the “summer rage.” This summer’s rage appears to be EM&V 2.0.  In June, Greentech Media published an article tackling challenges with measuring and tracking energy efficiency savings, and I wrote a follow-up response to that in my last blog post. I spoke with many in the industry after the article broke, including evaluators, utilities, regulators and advocates, and while there was some disagreement about the tone of the article, there appeared to be a consensus that the industry needs to address the core issues in the article. The article sparked a vibrant discussion around the challenges of measuring energy savings, touching the EM&V field as well as new technologies under the umbrella of EM&V 2.0.

So the IEPEC proved to be a perfect place to bring this all together, and I was honored to be a part of it. Each of the panelists provided a brief presentation on their companies, roles and perspectives on this important issue. Below is what I had to say:

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I’m here today to offer you a vision of how we as an industry can adapt to the challenges of achieving energy savings, by using cloud computing and data analytics to unlock the power of measurement and provide continuous, actionable feedback on program performance.

Why am I talking about this?  Because we can all acknowledge that the way things are done today results in real problems and frustrations for those designing, managing and approving energy efficiency programs.

The way we assess program performance is through a regulatory compliance mechanism, EM&V, and while this does a great job serving that function, it is less well-suited to providing the kinds of deep, timely and actionable feedback needed to continuously monitor performance, take corrective action and enhance and improve programs. And many in this field want to begin to understand what’s really happening at the meter, what’s happening in every premises, and dive into reams of data to measure and value the savings that our industry delivers.

These quotes represent some of the challenges we hear, and that we’re trying to address:

Quotes

So how does our savings measurement software work? In a nutshell, we’re leveraging established M&V protocols to perform a continuous, automated billing analysis, across every project in a program, and using large comparison groups of non-participants to control for population-wide effects (See Figures 2 and 3).

Figure 2. Billing analysis for all projects in a program, in an on-going manner, with comparison groups.

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Figure 3. Savings measurement software: how it works.

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We’re taking the data from customer meters, either monthly or AMI, residential or small/medium businesses, with a focus on programs where we can (1) tie savings to a meter, (2) there’s enough participants and non-participants to build robust comparison groups, and (3) the savings are at least 2-3% of total usage, so we can see the signal from the noise. The results of the analysis feed into a web-based dashboard which provides program managers and interested stakeholders a real-time view of program performance and deep, granular insights into drivers behind that performance.

So imagine a world in the not-too-distant future, where every project in every program in every year is continuously monitored and the savings are measured at the meter. What does this mean for this industry? Well, at EnergySavvy we see a world where we have continuous program improvement based on a steady stream of data analytics from the grid edge, providing key performance indicators such as contractor metrics, insights into savings achieved by specific measures or measure groups, location, vintage, etc. and factors driving your program towards success as well as those moving the program farther from its goals (See Figure 4). These analytics unlock the power of measurement to turn quantitative analytics into qualitative findings and actions, and this internal monitoring function is most applicable to utilities in the audience today.

Figure 4. Identify factors of both positive and negative influence on performance.

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And what does this mean for external, 3rd party evaluation? In its simplest form, it’s integrated EM&V with substantially more volume and granularity of data that can inform a responsive, targeted evaluation, focused on reducing uncertainty and investigating areas of concern uncovered through the continuous monitoring of the program. Streamlined and cleaned data can help reduce burdensome data requests to the utility and potentially reduce costs and/or leverage more value-added work for evaluators.

One one hand, evaluation serves a regulatory function to ensure that programs are meeting statutory requirements. On the other hand, utilities and program administrators would like to use evaluation to inform continuous program improvement. Program managers are clamoring for evaluation to serve a developmental function and help programs improve.
Brandy Brown, “Evolution of EM&V: Moving Towards a Systems Design,” 2014 ACEEE Summer Study

But will it replace EM&V? The simple answer is no, savings measurement software will no sooner replace 3rd party evaluation than QuickBooks displaced financial auditors. Will certain programs move away from assessing impacts through deemed savings and towards continuous billing analysis, with savings measured at the meter? Sure. And they should.

So to bring all this back, where does this leave us now?

In California, we have a push towards a rolling portfolio where what counts is timelier, actionable feedback. And utilities, commissions and stakeholders are clamoring to roll EE into grid operations, and the grid requires measurement of reductions from the grid edge, not proxy algorithms.

Nationwide, we just got the most profound ruling on reducing carbon emissions in US history handed down last week. EM&V is no longer utility by utility, but will be checked at the state and federal level. Think about that for a second: EM&V is going to be used to calculate how we’re doing relative to climate change.  So now it’s no longer about measuring the impacts from a light bulb or a program, but about moving towards valuing EE in a new market for emission credits.

In conclusion, my request is this: As trusted advisors to utilities, help your clients understand how EM&V 2.0 fits into the current and future paradigm, and help them understand the importance of continuous monitoring and how this can enhance, complement and not conflict with third-party evaluation.

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That concluded most of my presentation. As you might guess, calling EM&V 2.0 the summer rage seems over the top. Rather, EM&V 2.0 is an additional tool in the toolbox for utilities, evaluators, and regulators.

At the end of my presentation I challenged the audience to re-convene this panel in two years at the next IEPEC. I asked everyone to come prepared with fully fleshed out case studies demonstrating the power of EM&V 2.0 to yield deep insights, actionable feedback and “near real-time,” responsive/developmental evaluation. I am confident that the summer rage will quickly die down, and long before my next presentation at IEPEC, EM&V 2.0 will be the norm, and our industry will find these tools indispensable.

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Meet Engage Direct, a New Way to Engage ALL of Your Customers

Successful initiatives at Minnesota Energy Resources and a large Northeast utility prove that intelligent and personalized direct-to-customer energy assessments can engage hard-to-reach customers, providing an effective “front door” to utility customer programs and measurably increasing customer satisfaction.

ED-Launch-Blog-ImageMeet Engage Direct, personalized 1-to-1 engagement that educates and activates traditionally passive customers. Proven highly effective in reaching utility customers that do not interact with their utility online, Engage Direct embodies the utility-of-the-future trend: one in which customer choice, efficiency and renewable options, and connected homes and devices provide an unprecedented level of control to the energy consumer.

Engage Direct enhances EnergySavvy’s popular Optix Engage online energy assessment, already in use by 25 electric and gas utilities and state programs nationwide. The Engage Direct experience is simple for customers. First, a customer completes the no-cost home energy survey and mails it back. Then, the customer receives a personalized report in the mail identifying specific energy saving options and utility demand side management (DSM) programs that are a fit. For the utility, all customer-reported data is securely stored and accessible through the Engage Analytics portal, making Optix Engage a powerful tool for segmenting and matching utility customers with the right utility programs.

Utilities are welcoming the high performance delivered by Engage Direct. In initial deployments at both Minnesota Energy Resources and a large investor-owned utility in the Northeast, mailings achieved a response rate of 17%, far exceeding the typical rate for direct mail of just one to two percent. And customers love it. Notably, in a follow-up survey in Minnesota, those who completed Engage Direct reported 18% higher satisfaction with their utility than a control group.

The response rate from Engage Direct was much higher than we expected and it drove a significant percentage of our customers to our website. We were able to engage traditionally hard-to-reach customers including seniors and lower income, exactly the types of customers who may benefit most from our energy saving programs.
Jim Phillippo, Minnesota Energy Resources

Complementary to other utility engagement initiatives—like home energy reports that employ neighbor-to-neighbor comparisons to passively engage and positively impact behavior over time—Engage Direct begins an active conversation with customers about energy usage and how the utility’s programs can help them improve.

“Engage Direct lets utilities start an active conversation about energy with customers they’re not already interacting with online,” said Scott Case, EnergySavvy’s Chief Operating Officer. “It’s simple and easy, a great outreach tool not just for low-income and elderly populations, but also makes sense for community events, in-school programs and annual mailings.”

Join us for a webinar on Engaging ALL of Your Customers, coming up on September 2.

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EnergySavvy and Oracle Power DSM Applications through Connected Data

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A product partnership between EnergySavvy and Oracle Utilities will drive savings measurement and better customer experience through connected customer and meter data.

Savings measurement software, like Optix Quantify, that brings faster and deeper insights to utility demand-side management relies on data science, distributed cloud computing, and established protocols in measurement and verification (M&V). But it also relies on customer and meter data – either analog meter data or AMI data. And accessing customer and meter data and using it in downstream applications can present a major obstacle for utilities.

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Today, Oracle announced the launch of DataConnect, a new data extraction feature for Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing and Oracle Utilities Meter Data Management that allows utilities to derive greater value from their data by more easily leveraging data across utility systems, including those provided by product partners like EnergySavvy.

By making customer usage and billing data securely accessible, Oracle enables utilities to accelerate and adopt solutions like Optix Quantify more quickly and easily. And the integration of EnergySavvy and Oracle’s Customer Care and Billing solution delivers one view of the customer for call center representatives, improved customer experience, and greater access to customer and energy efficiency data across the organization.

EnergySavvy’s energy efficiency quantification software, Optix Quantify, utilizes usage data to measure and calculate energy savings in real-time. DataConnect provides that valuable customer and meter data simply and easily, decreasing the time to value and helping utilities realize maximum performance from Optix Quantify.” | Scott Case, EnergySavvy COO

In Oracle’s press release today, Rodger Smith, senior vice president and general manager said, “Oracle recognized that customer information systems and meter data management systems should not restrict the use of this powerful data. Oracle Utilities DataConnect gives utilities the power to freely access their customer and meter data and leverage it to deliver excellent service and drive peak performance across the organization.”

Connected data among an ecosystem of utility technology providers, is helping to enable 21st Century Demand-Side Management. Want to explore how to leverage your investments in metering infrastructure to engage customers, manage programs, and quantify DSM? Drop us a line:

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EnergySavvy Welcomes Tom King, Former CEO of National Grid U.S., to its Board of Directors

King’s utility and energy efficiency industry leadership will help drive success and fuel the growth of EnergySavvy’s demand-side management software and solutions.

The EnergySavvy team has demonstrated a strong ability to deliver a software-based solution that drives customer engagement, manages customer programs and quantifies results in real-time. / Tom King

Tom King joins EnergySavvy's Board of Directors

Tom King joins EnergySavvy’s Board of Directors

EnergySavvy, a leader in cloud software for utilities, announced that energy efficiency industry leader, Tom King, joins its Board of Directors. With more than two decades of utility senior management experience in roles including CEO of Pacific Gas and Electric Company and more recently National Grid U.S., Tom King brings invaluable expertise and a unique perspective to EnergySavvy. The company continues to scale its demand-side management software and solutions for utilities, powered by modern customer engagement, analytics and automation.

“Tom has run two of the world’s leading utilities that operate in the #1, #2, #3 and #7 ranked states for energy efficiency. His experience is only matched by his passion for industry progress,” said Aaron Goldfeder, CEO and co-founder of EnergySavvy. “His leadership and insights will help enable EnergySavvy to continue to provide breakthrough and increasingly valuable solutions to our rapidly changing industry. We’re honored to have him join us.”

“I’m excited to join the EnergySavvy team as we drive the next wave forward,” said Tom King. “The EnergySavvy team has demonstrated a strong ability to deliver a software-based solution that drives customer engagement, manages customer programs and quantifies results in real-time. After a deep dive with the team, I was captured. Our evolving industry demands better data and software-driven methods more than ever before. I look forward to continuing to make an impact as an EnergySavvy board member.”

Tom King has been a leader in energy efficiency for many years. He spent the last eight driving success as President and Executive Director at National Grid U.S., while serving as Chairman of the Alliance to Save Energy over the past three years. Tom is credited with the Northeast utility’s successful turnaround, improving returns and customer service led by a program of regulatory engagement and filings, plus a major restructuring in 2011. National Grid manages over $550 million annually in energy efficiency across its US business. And the states it serves, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York, are ranked at the top of the national scorecard developed by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Before National Grid, Tom served in a series of senior operating positions at PG&E Corporation from 1998-2007, including President of PG&E Corporation and Chairman and CEO of Pacific Gas and Electric Company from 2003-2007, and prior to that as President of PG&E National Energy Group.

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EM&V 2.0: Notes from the Field

How Savings Measurement Software Complements Evaluation

-By Tim Guiterman

Greentech Media published an article this week citing many of the challenges with measuring energy efficiency today, with quotes from me as well as several other voices in the industry. The article addresses very real problems, but it takes a controversial posture without the views of the evaluation community, which inevitably invites some unnecessary conflict. The framing, and especially the headline, implied something I don’t believe: that EM&V as it stands today is inaccurate or unreliable, or that it should go away. I’m not saying that the article misquoted me. And, in fact, I believe that the way we measure energy efficiency should continue to evolve – I said much the same thing in my previous blog post about why I joined EnergySavvy.

While there is a really important conversation here, the take-away message doesn’t reflect EnergySavvy’s views, so I wanted to make sure that a few of our core beliefs are articulated.

Innovation in this field is based on the past and future success of EM&V. More than three decades of successful energy efficiency programs have been quantified and valued as a result of EM&V, and the continued success of this field provides the foundation for new approaches and methods.

New software-based methods won’t replace EM&V work any more than QuickBooks replaced third-party audit firms. EnergySavvy isn’t suggesting that software is going to displace traditional evaluation. Much of the qualitative and quantitative work done by evaluators cannot be automated by software.

Integrated M&V is an exciting and promising frontier. One of the things we’re most excited about is the role of moving savings measurement into the earlier parts of program execution. In an industry that spends over $20B per three-year program cycle, this is an opportunity to create billions of dollars of value through continuous program optimization.

It’s about the customer experience and beyond, not just measurement. The discussion is about more than energy measurement. For example, if on average an installed widget saves 100 kWh, that’s important for planning and incentives. But by definition, some widgets will save less and some more, reflecting quality of installation, customer usage patterns, location, behavior and other factors. Utilities need timely data to identify what works and what doesn’t. And the utility of the future needs to know what’s happening on the grid.

But we cannot ignore the challenges of measurement either. This blog is all about “Notes from the Field,” and since my last post, I have hit the road hard, traveling around the country meeting with utilities, regulators, evaluators, implementers and other stakeholders. And what I’m hearing every day better reflects the challenges and solutions.

There are clear challenges with the way energy efficiency is measured today, with real implications. These generally center around three key areas:

  • First and foremost, data lag is often the biggest source of frustration for regulators and program administrators. The long time delay between program execution and obtaining the final verified savings from impact evaluation means that plans and budgets for the next cycle are set before the results are available. The outcome is that standard operating procedure for many DSM programs is to run a program without a clear understanding of the actual performance.
  • The second challenge builds off the first, and is that the value of measurement directly ties to usefulness. Despite significant spending on EM&V, data lag delays process improvements, threatens program success, and impacts cost effectiveness calculations that determine the regulatory approval of programs. This one is key. The depth and breadth of evaluation studies are substantial, and while I’ve always known there’s some frustration with evaluation, I have been surprised to hear for myself how much of this effort is not perceived as valuable or useful across many departments within utilities. That’s a shame, and something I’d like to see addressed through more than just new software tools.
  • Finally, there is a pent-up demand both at the utilities and in the markets for data based on actual performance. Variability in energy efficiency estimates undercuts the ability to value energy efficiency. It has also been cost-prohibitive to collect information on more than a sample of projects, and this often means that as evaluators, we struggle to provide granular insights due to a lack of sufficient data to dive in deeper. Trade allies and customers also have too few mechanisms to receive feedback on how their energy efficiency projects performed. This gap between expectations and actual performance, whether real or perceived, has direct implications on the confidence that key stakeholders have in energy efficiency.

Technology to help address these challenges is now emerging and in use today. Savings measurement software can provide granular insights into program performance and provide administrators data to improve and enhance programs as well as capture and promote best practices, all during the program year. The utilities I speak with understand how valuable this information is, and for evaluators, continuous and easy-to-digest data helps shine light on the difficult work we do.

Despite these many benefits, this technology is not a silver bullet; savings measurement software works best when we have programs with enough participants and we can tie savings to the meter. Certain programs and applications like custom C&I and retail lighting programs aren’t good candidates. Utilities are also unlikely to invest in software, solely for the sake of M&V, for programs where the engineering estimates of savings are well-established and there is high certainty in the baseline conditions. The challenges that face traditional evaluation methods still remain but using powerful computing and data analytics can bring significant insights, faster, meaning the best solutions will integrate established EM&V expertise, approaches and methods with these new tools. Finally, one more point, and one that I make regularly: savings measurement software is a powerful way to complement and enhance third party EM&V. It will help meet the one key goal of every evaluation, which is to improve the effectiveness of energy efficiency programs, while at the same time leverage deeper value from EM&V efforts.

How we measure and value energy savings is critical to the past and future success of energy efficiency. I look forward to continuing the conversation as I travel to talk with utilities, evaluators, regulators and other stakeholders. EnergySavvy’s next installment on this topic will be a June 18th webinar. I hope you can join us.

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