Energy efficiency is emerging as an important distributed energy resource and growing to meet long-term energy needs. As energy efficiency has evolved, so has evaluation, measurement, and verification, or EM&V. ACEEE recently published a paper titled Recent Developments in Energy Efficiency Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification describing the recent developments and challenges in the EM&V field including deemed savings and technical reference manuals (TRMs), common practice baselines (CPBs), and Advanced M&V (aka M&V 2.0) enabled by greater data availability and improved data analytics. The authors of the paper state, “The multiple benefits of energy efficiency as a low-cost, reliable, and clean resource are, to some extent, dependent on EM&V to quantify them and make them visible.”
Most relevant to EnergySavvy’s work are the research and findings around M&V 2.0. The paper describes M&V 2.0 as the “new measurement and verification techniques that take advantage of enhanced data analytics and increased data availability.” While the paper points out that these new techniques are made possible by the increased availability of granular data from advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) meters, it’s important to note that our platform is built to take advantage of monthly billing data as well, and interval data is not required to generate valuable insights from continuous measurement.
As one of the interviewees in the creation of this paper, I generally agree with the assessment of the current state of the market for M&V 2.0, as well as the promise and potential outlined in the report. However, I am still seeing some subtle language that reflects some of the confusion in the industry now. For example, the paper states that “Our research did not find any state that used M&V 2.0 methods as the principal approach for estimating energy savings for program impact evaluation—that is, they are not being used to replace the “E” in EM&V.” This statement is correct (though we are on an evaluation team that working on this right now), but it subtly mixes apples and oranges. Why, in today’s utility customer-funded efficiency paradigm, would a billing analysis suddenly replace the “E” in EM&V? This line of thinking seems to belie the collective knowledge and expertise within the evaluation community. And I think a larger part of it is because the M&V 2.0 solutions are stemming from new players, including EnergySavvy and other analytics and software firms. If a “traditional” EM&V firm created their own tools to conduct automated, near real-time analysis of energy efficiency impacts at the customer meter, I don’t believe they would propose to their clients that the results of that analysis is all they need, and the “E” is now rendered useless.
Put simply – M&V 2.0 builds off of best practices in what’s commonly referred to as “billing analysis,” which when done in the traditional manner, results in a one-time, very backward-looking impact analysis approach that offers little to no value to either the program implementation or evaluation teams. For programs, a static billing analysis does not allow for more responsive or agile implementation strategies, continuous performance monitoring and improvement, targeted QA/QC or contractor oversight. For evaluation, an impact analysis that is completed over a year after a program closes does nothing to inform the allocation of evaluation resources and answer questions such as What is diverging from expectations? and Where should our team focus our budget and time? It also does not help provide clients with faster feedback (a recurring theme in this report) and does not allow for more timely updates to deemed savings in TRMs.
On the contrary, M&V 2.0 combines automation, machine learning, cloud computing and dashboard visualizations to provide these capabilities across applicable programs – where meter-based measurement makes sense – and deliver a critical tool to the energy efficiency department that has value streams across implementation and evaluation.
Interestingly, several of the challenges for EM&V outlined in this report could be addressed by the increased adoption of new tools. The report states that one common issue highlighted by the interviewees is “making evaluation results and language more accessible, impactful, timely, and relevant” in order to “better communicate evaluation results to policymakers and regulators.” Software tools and dashboard visualizations of performance allows utilities and evaluation firms to more quickly and easily process results and findings, slice and dice findings by relevant characteristics (e.g., customer demographics, contractor, peak demand window, building types, location, etc.), and supplement interim and final reports with more accessible insights.
Another challenge highlighted in the report is that “Some regulators still suspect that energy efficiency does not produce real savings, while other regulators suspect that utilities inflate their savings estimates.” This perception issue is also present on the operations side of many utilities, as well at the ISO’s, where energy efficiency savings are largely factored into resource planning with significant discount factors, and sometimes the reductions are seen as little more than a “rounding error” in the overall plan. As noted throughout the report, and the focus of ACEEE’s annual Energy Efficiency as a Resource conference, if the industry wants to step up the game here, and make this resource count in a rapidly changing landscape of distributed energy resources (DERs), then one start is to begin measuring impacts more proactively at the meter, and calibrating deemed values with more frequent and timely measurements. When EnergySavvy assesses efficiency impacts using our M&V 2.0 platform, we isolate impacts by feeder, substation and/or circuit. And when using interval data, the tools continuously measure and report demand impacts based on time and/or location, enabling utilities to accurately and reliably assess impacts of non-wires solutions and geo-targeted efforts, as well as traditional efficiency programs.
A special thanks to ACEEE for their continued dedication to keeping this industry up to date with the latest trends and challenges within EM&V. At EnergySavvy, we firmly believe that this field can play an essential and pivotal role in making the numerous benefits of efficiency visible and maintain this resource as “first in the loading order.” And please come check out a talk by our Chief Data Scientist, John Backus Mayes, for a very relevant discussion during the M&V 2.0 session at this year’s ACEEE EER conference (Session 4D at 1:30pm on Wednesday, 11/1).
M&V 2.0 tools offer a range of capabilities valuable to program designers and implementers, from customer intelligence to end-use load disaggregation…Timelier data and increased granularity mean that M&V results can surface more quickly, and this faster feedback means more-responsive program implementation. The increasing availability of more granular data could also have significant implications for calculation of demand impacts, based on multiple definitions of peak.
-Excerpt from ACEEE Recent Developments in Energy Efficiency Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification