M&V in a Changing Evaluation Landscape

evaluation landscape
This is part of a series of Zondits articles on next generation evaluation and EDGE M&V. Please join us as we explore these emerging trends.

Gary Epstein and Jeff Perkins, ERS, for Zondits

The energy efficiency landscape is changing, and increasingly there is a push to take both the measurement of actual savings and the evaluation of programs promoting those efforts to a new level. In this article, we make the case that we should be enhancing M&V with new sources of granular data to achieve this new level.

The traditional “snapshot”-oriented approach comparing before and after energy-usage scenarios is no longer sufficient for measuring the success of energy-efficiency projects or for evaluators to identify improvement opportunities in program planning, delivery, and implementation. Stakeholders industry-wide – administrators, implementers, evaluators, property owners, and investors – realize the need for more accurate, granular, immediate, and continuous insights into the results of energy efficiency projects and programs. It is clear the next generation of evaluation needs “real-time” data on achieved reductions. Analysis of this data will help quantify savings and help implement the most efficient program possible.

Ultimately, we all must answer the questions that define successful energy efficiency: How can we quantify real savings? How can we achieve reductions at specific hours of need? How can we defend load reductions to resource planners who are worried about blackouts? How can we effectively implement programs to ensure that energy efficiency is truly the most cost-effective resource?

At the same time the need for these changes is increasing, the quest to cost-effectively reach beyond the building meter for data from subsystems, equipment, and human occupancy is no longer elusive. The ability to persistently measure energy savings as they happen, with desired granularity across the energy-efficiency effort hierarchy, Portfolio > Programs > Buildings > Projects > Measures, can now be accomplished with the availability of data streams delivered by remote Internet of Things (IoT) devices inside buildings. Furthermore, as IoT adoption continues to fuel this ever more cost-effective and valuable data harvesting, it will enable identification of common macro-trends across portfolios and distinct micro-trends within buildings and systems. Such dynamic and real-time verification of energy savings will boost investor and market confidence in further promoting energy efficiency as a resource and a tradeable commodity.

Access to behind-the-meter granular data is becoming infinitely affordable, and from that a new approach to EM&V is emerging, embracing the latest sensor technologies to harvest granular data and make the sought-after changes possible. Granular data allows investors, facility owners, program implementers, and evaluators to intelligently approach efficiency opportunities. Buildings are complex organisms with systems and human occupancy patterns that are continuously in flux. The availability of low-cost sensors has enabled effective investigation of hyper-localized trends of occupancy and energy usage with advanced analytical toolsets. In effect, the abundance of granular information, overlaid with analytical frameworks, offers an opportunity for enhanced tracking of efficiency with deeper insights into causes and effects of measure and program successes and challenges.

While the specter of cost is raised at times, the real focus should be for a higher value M&V that helps offer greater credibility to all stakeholders. Indeed, there is wide consensus that the next generation of evaluation must produce more immediate results and serve the need for accurately demonstrating project impacts with greater certainty. To get there, the next generation of M&V must deliver more value – whether for facility owners, investors, implementers, evaluators, or system planners – and it must incorporate the latest technologies and analytics, produce more immediate results, and serve the need for accurately demonstrating project impacts. Finally, alternative language is needed to characterize the distinct world of high granularity data and related analytical methods that constitute EDGE M&V. EDGE M&V aims to leverage the latest in-building sensor and behind-the-meter monitoring technologies coupled with deep granular analyses to produce higher value results.

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