• Counting Energy Savings from Behavior – Can it be done?

    Communication, Communication Design


    Behavior-based energy management programs for commercial and institutional buildings have come a long way since the 1970s. Back then I was a young engineer working for a consulting engineering firm. I remember the countless energy audits consisting of building walk-throughs and building operator interviews. Our goal was to identify both energy asset improvement projects as well as changes in building operations which would result in energy savings. Results for each were always summarized in separate tables within the energy audit write-up. Typically a client would implement several of the asset projects depending on available funding. However the behavioral components (changes in how the buildings were being run) rarely saw the light of day.Flash forward to today.We now know with certainty that behavior-based energy management programs work. We know what components are necessary for a program to be effective; we know how the components fit together and we know how to measure overall organizational energy savings and program success. We also know that many organizations are interested in engaging their people through an energy behavior program. These organizations may even have a sustainability officer or energy manager, who realizes that saving energy by changing behavior is inexpensive, reduces costs, provides good PR and is the right thing to do.As many states work through how to meet their mandates for energy reductions, regulators and utilities alike recognize that energy asset projects may not be sufficient to reach their goals. Somehow the savings resulting from behavior need to come into play. Regulators and utilities are trying to figure out how to do it through a variety of approaches. Indirect educational programs resulting in energy savings that cannot be directly measured, such as Building Operator Certification (BOC), continue to be offered. There are also group-based programs, typically targeted at the residential sector, from which energy savings are determined through statistical analysis of a control group compared to a target group. Opower is a good example of this. And then there is an emerging category of single entity direct savings programs which are targeted at organizations that implement either a behavior-only program or a combined behavior-asset program, such as our own “Outcome-Based Incentive Program”This last category is the one in which I have a personal interest. To me, programs that measure actual savings, on an ongoing basis, at the building level, by comparing energy usage in the current period (year, quarter, month, etc.) to a weather-adjusted base period are the ones that most accurately record intentional choices and changes to reduce energy use.Over the past 10 years my firm, CLASS 5 Energy, has provided behavior-based energy management programs to K-12 school districts and more recently to offices and commercial buildings. We have results which show that organizations that follow our program reduce their energy use, sometimes significantly. But we don’t yet know how organizational energy savings, produced from solutions like ours, can be counted.Last year I participated in Minnesota’s 1.5% Energy Efficiency Solutions Project. The final project report was published in March 2011. During this project, regulators, utilities and other stakeholders worked to identify and develop ideas for addressing the barriers that may prevent Minnesota from meeting its energy reduction mandate. Calculating the savings from behavioral programs was one of the four identified barriers and the one I worked on. It was very clear that little, if any, consensus existed on how behavior savings should be measured or counted. Savings persistence and measurement lifetime were core issues. Now, one year later, there is still no consensus — but the need and desire to figure it out remains as both regulators and utilities look for ways to achieve their mandate goals.If you are aware of any organizational behavior program receiving some form of rebate or incentive, please drop me a line with the program name. I like to keep track of these things.

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