Providing a method to the madness of advanced data and analytics to scale smarter buildings and a smarter grid
The innovative Nest thermostat helped to mainstream the concept of a smarter home. Now, high-resolution smart meters, numerous communicating smart thermostats, nonintrusive load monitoring, and new cloud-based software are transforming the concept of smarter buildings more broadly. You may not have heard of all of these devices, but your local utility efficiency program administrator, regulators, and grid planners have. Plus, an increasing number of commercial building owners and operators—the ones that perhaps manage your large office complex—are watching this industry closely.
Smart devices, more readily accessible data, and advanced analytics are transforming measurement and verification (M&V) techniques into a disruptive force with the potential to change the built environment’s relationship to the electricity grid, and to create a new normal for energy efficiency. The timing couldn’t be better as utility regulations and mandates, evolving utility business models, and changing customer behaviors present very real challenges and opportunities to multiple stakeholders on both the supply and demand sides. This is due to a greater desire for energy efficiency to be a more quantifiable, reliable, and therefore investible, resource.
Making the Invisible Visible
Advanced M&V (commonly referred to as M&V 2.0) offers the potential to help realize the promise of “buildings as a grid asset” in two important ways. First, it leverages the increased granularity (finer time scale) of smart meter data; and second, automated analytics enable processing of larger volumes of data at higher speeds than ever before.
An M&V 2.0 approach can provide near real-time savings estimates and more actionable insights that can inform individual energy efficiency projects and improve their management and implementation. It would allow grid planners to more effectively use efficiency as a grid resource. Energy service companies could improve performance outcomes and reap higher performance payments, while building owners and operators benefit from increased transparency of savings, and decreased risk associated with investments in energy saving measures. Even investors are excited about M&V 2.0 as a way to increase confidence in predicted savings and to support new models for financing and contracting for energy efficiency.
But these numerous potential benefits remain underdelivered, underexplored, and dispersed.
“In its current state, the industry is volatile. We see a ton of opportunity but people are still using M&V for different purposes and in different applications, leading to uncertainty around the accuracy of savings as more and more methods become automated,” said Ellen Franconi, an energy analytics manager with Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). “As we use M&V 2.0 more prevalently and in new ways, the industry needs to understand both the benefits and limitations of technologies and methods as they are currently applied. Shared interests in the benefits of M&V 2.0 across stakeholder groups provide us with an opportunity to create a common foundation and clear language that fosters improved communication and effective collaboration within a shared implementation structure.”
A Holistic Perspective to Drive M&V Forward
To tackle these complex issues, RMI and partners from the University of Chicago and Open Energy Efficiency, DNV GL, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Energy Savvy, the U.S. Department of Energy, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company formed a team that attended the 2016 eLab Accelerator, dubbed the “bootcamp for electricity innovation.” During four days they participated in facilitated sessions under expert faculty guidance to address key issues for leveraging M&V 2.0. They wanted to foster a greater understanding and agreement regarding the valuation components that benefit from consistent versus customized treatment of data and methods.
The team’s newly released report, The Status and Promise of Advanced M&V, is the initial result of the team’s collaborative efforts, which extended beyond their time at eLab Accelerator.
Understanding and Standardizing M&V 2.0
The report draws on the team's diverse perspectives from academia, evaluation consulting, software development, and efficiency program administration to:
Explain stakeholder perspectives, M&V 2.0 methods, M&V 2.0 tools, and the benefits and challenges of a shared approach
Detail key issues and current work related to standardization, guidelines, and protocols
Detail a set of critical interrelated needs and opportunities to set a common path forward for the industry
Understanding the different purposes for measuring savings is important for assessing the value of advanced M&V 2.0 tools with different capabilities. The report categorizes the capabilities of existing tools according to five main distinguishing characteristics: sector focus, primary design intent, level of automation, M&V method, and analytic transparency. Tools with new capabilities are continually becoming available, but this categorization can be useful to align stakeholders around different applications. It also details general methodologies being developed to evaluate software capabilities by evaluating model performance and prediction accuracy.
The development of standards, such as those that address data access and confidentiality issues, also will support widespread advancement of M&V 2.0. Case studies of current standardization work are limited, but the report details developments that are either being tested or fully deployed in the field like the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission support of the CalTRACK protocol, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Uniform Methods Project.
Current M&V 2.0 methods do show momentum, but the fact that they are few and far between reveals that a great deal of opportunity laid out by M&V 2.0 has yet to be fully realized. Unresolved technical, methodological, regulatory, and business-model challenges remain, and opportunities for innovation continue to unfold.
Download the report today to learn more about how M&V 2.0 can support increased energy efficiency activity not only through individual building initiatives and programs, but also through new markets for tradable energy efficiency savings.