TODAY’S STUDY: THE ENERGY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS THAT WORK
Inventory of Commercial Energy Management and Information Systems (EMIS) for Measurement and Verifiction (M&V) Applications
Hannah Kramer, James Russell, Eliot Crowe, and Joan Effinger, October 9, 2013 (Portland Energy Conservation, Inc.)
Energy Management and Information Systems (EMIS) are software tools that store, analyze, and display energy use or building systems data. A wide variety of EMIS is available, and they have shown promise for supporting nonresidential utility energy efficiency programs. One major barrier to adoption has been a general lack of transparency in the embedded analytical capabilities, which makes it harder to validate EMIS performance. For most potential EMIS users, it is challenging just to keep up with the ever-increasing number of EMIS entering the market and the evolution of existing tools.
To assist its Pacific Northwest utility stakeholders, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) contracted with Portland Energy Conservation, Inc. (PECI) to help provide clarity on the range of EMIS available and their respective feature sets. The output of this work is an EMIS inventory that details the functionality of fourteen EMIS. The overarching objective of the inventory is to document EMIS features that can support utility programs and financial transactions for energy efficiency.
Stakeholder Needs Assessment
The project team conducted a series of guided interviews with representatives of Northwest utilities to better understand: past, current, and planned EMIS-related activities; the most desirable features that EMIS could provide; and recommendations for specific tools to evaluate for the EMIS inventory. These interviews indicated that Northwest utilities’ current approaches to EMIS cover a wide range, from monitoring EMIS developments and responding to customer inquiries to implementing program pilots. Many EMIS pilots are in progress across the region, with a few of the larger utilities taking the lead. Utility representatives expressed strong and widespread interest in future use of EMIS for applications including portfolio screening, opportunity identification, occupant engagement, and measurement and verification (M&V). Many respondents saw potential benefits for the use of EMIS in M&V but noted a need for more visibility, understanding, and documentation of the tools’ M&V approaches. In addition, the manner in which the tools can be integrated into programs remains unclear to utility representatives, and they are uncertain regarding program cost-effectiveness.
Building on the needs assessment, PECI’s past research, and recent literature on EMIS, PECI developed a draft inventory design, which it then refined based on feedback received from the project’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG). The final inventory is comprised of twenty-four columns, divided into the following five groups:
• Product Information: EMIS name, vendor, website
• General Features: Data security protocol, end-user audience
• M&V Features: Details defining M&V methodology
• Technical Features: Other features offered in addition to M&V
• Applications: Information on pilots/programs and installations
PECI carefully documented the feature definition and data entry requirements for each of the columns in the inventory spreadsheet to ensure consistency and to enable comparisons across EMIS.
PECI developed an initial target list of fifty-one EMIS for consideration, including tools suggested by NEEA stakeholders and other tools known to the project team or reported in recent literature. For EMIS to qualify for inclusion in the inventory, PECI set minimum criteria for M&V capabilities and market presence. Screening the target list against the minimum criteria reduced the list to approximately twenty tools. Several more tools were removed from the inventory after the software demonstration showed that the tools did not sufficiently meet the minimum criteria for inclusion in the inventory.
The final inventory is populated with fourteen EMIS, which are shown in the table 1.
The project team’s research on meter-level EMIS found that EMIS technology has progressed markedly compared to its capabilities of even a few years ago. The process of identifying, screening, and populating the inventory with tools yielded several findings and themes, including the following.
Advanced M&V Features Are Aligning with Utility Needs
The stakeholder needs assessment identified a need for clear visibility into the tools’ M&V algorithms. Two-thirds of the EMIS vendors reported that model equations or model specifications can be viewed and downloaded by the user. Most of the tools reported statistical metrics for “model fit” (i.e., how well the theoretical energy model matched actual energy use) to tool users.
Almost all of the EMIS in the inventory support an International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP) Option C approach to M&V, under which the actual post-implementation energy usage is compared to an adjusted baseline (“avoided energy use” approach). This approach typically requires twelve months of post-implementation data to report on annual savings. However, five of the tools in the inventory reported an ability to perform “normalized” savings analyses in which the model estimates annual savings using less than a year of post-implementation energy use data. In addition, seven of the meter-level EMIS vendors in this inventory reported that they are starting to include methods for accounting for non-project effects, such as occupancy changes.
Just two of the tools in the inventory support IPMVP Option D calibrated simulation; these tools implement whole-building simulations informed by meter data. One key benefit of simulations is that the tools may be used to calculate energy savings for individual measures or end uses.
The inventory includes three examples of EMIS that provide advanced M&V capabilities using monthly data. One drawback of using monthly data is that the method is not well-suited to projects with relatively low savings (less than ten percent of whole-building energy use). Since higher resolution interval data is not available for many commercial buildings, PECI considered it essential to include monthly tools in the inventory.
EMIS Products and Offerings Continue to Evolve
EMIS have evolved significantly over the previous few years, and this evolution is expected to continue. As part of this evolution, many EMIS in the inventory now share a common set of basic features and capabilities, especially around data visualization and benchmarking. Beyond those basic features, tools in the inventory are differentiating in two key ways. First, the level of automation and user expertise required varies among tools. Second, an increasing number of EMIS are offering project tracking capabilities and some ability to disaggregate energy use and to identify measure opportunities.
The stakeholder needs assessment identified a need for clear visibility into the tools’ M&V algorithms. Two-thirds of the EMIS vendors reported that model equations or model specifications can be viewed and downloaded by the user. Most of the tools reported statistical The project team’s research on meter-level EMIS found that EMIS technology has progressed markedly compared to its capabilities of even a few years ago. The process of identifying, screening, and populating the inventory with tools yielded several findings and themes, including the following.
The state of the art in EMIS technology has progressed markedly when compared to capabilities of a few years ago. Utilities have a number of options for EMIS that can support program M&V (even if smart metering infrastructure is not in place), and that offer other beneficial features in addition to the software’s M&V capabilities.
The recent evolution of advanced M&V capabilities presents utilities an opportunity to determine appropriate methods for validating the tools for program applications. This is not simply a case of validating new tools that can replicate existing programmatic methods; capitalizing on the M&V capabilities of EMIS requires the development of whole-building programmatic approaches that can satisfy the needs of building owners, utilities, and regulators. If meter-level EMIS features are proven to be robust and the programmatic approaches are cost-effective, this opens the way for rapid growth of whole-building approaches to energy efficiency.