Utility-Enabled Whole Building Data Access: The Problems, Processes and Possibilities
Part Three: The Possibilities
Building energy consumption remains an unsolved problem at scale – it takes baselines across all building types and sizes to drive meaningful change. Utility data is the key, but easy, consistent access has stalled progress for years. This series explores barriers, practical approaches, and stakeholder benefits around utility-enabled whole building data access.
Making it Happen: Practical Advice
As covered in Part Two – The Processes, here’s what utilities and involved entities can do to facilitate the transition to recognizing and categorizing buildings as energy assets:
- Take a customer-status agnostic approach. This approach makes it possible for approved building representatives (from managers to energy efficiency consultants to non-resident owners) to get the data they need. They will not all be utility account holders. And more – when utilities know who the right contact is for energy management in a building, they have the right lead for their own EE and incentive programs.
- Leverage building owner knowledge and utility data. Building owners know their units and who their tenants are/were better than a utility ever could. A software-enabled approach that combines utility data and building owner knowledge is an elegant way to get accurate, aggregated data into building owner hands while maintaining privacy. It also gives everyone involved the assurance that the aggregated data is accurate.
- Get involved with the stakeholder community. Whether you’re a utility program manager facing a new ordinance, a legislator or city official trying to reduce energy consumption in buildings, there are groups eager to work on the problems and solutions with you. Organizations like MEEA, ACEEE, and IMT are committed to providing best practices and helping regions shape effective building-focused legislation.
Utility Programs + Whole Building Data
Once a utility knows the definition of a building, they can apply it reliably and repeatedly, externally and internally. Here are just a few ways utilities can build on building level data:
- The ability to evaluate energy efficiency savings for benchmarked buildings.
- Lead generation for a pipeline of energy efficiency program opportunities.
- Internal and/or external capabilities leveraging building level AMI data – including offering things like Green Button data at the building level.
- Commercial energy use and analysis tools connected to building level data, rather than only offered for single commercial accounts.
- A utility DER strategy and DERMS implementation where buildings can be modeled and managed as resources.
Digging into the Data: What else is in this Data Set for Utilities?
- Current and historical EUI and ENERGY STAR® Scores
- Building owner and/or their representatives’ direct contact information (often non-account holders)
- Building level billing and interval data, rather than only tenant and account-based data
- Overlays of building data and scores with programs, building demographics and other internal data
- Carbon emissions at the building level
Looking Ahead: The Win-Win-Win
Easy access to accurate, whole building data unlocks new opportunities for everyone involved.
With a renewed focus on climate change at the federal level, investments in carbon reduction and energy efficiency will increase through direct federal activity, while cities and states continue to lead the way. Building-focused policies are evolving from benchmarking to performance and even to carbon taxing. With electrification underway and utilities advancing into DERMS and beyond, the building sector and utilities both need an accurate, ongoing line of sight into building level data. Utilities will remain the only source of historical data at scale, and those who step into this opportunity will capture numerous strategic advantages while enabling the same for others.
This requires a new approach to utility-enabled whole building data access. By considering the best practices outlined above, utilities can unlock a new paradigm where:
- building owners can access accurate historical whole building data (monthly, daily, or even interval data),
- utilities themselves can identify under performing buildings and customers to create pipelines for their programs,
- and program administrators, vendors and regulators can use the data to benchmark, evaluate opportunities, calibrate and perform M&V.
Utility-enabled whole building data access is a win-win-win for all involved.
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