Meeting the Energy Efficiency Challenge in 2014


Across the United States, the utility industry is facing increasing energy efficiency goals for 2014 and beyond. To achieve these goals, utilities must tap into the market segment that represents the greatest opportunity for energy savings over the next 10 years – the commercial building market.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, buildings consume more than 40 percent of all US energy, with commercial buildings accounting for half of this total building consumption. Research shows that 30 percent of a commercial building’s energy use is commonly wasted. This waste represents a significant energy-saving opportunity – but utilities have yet to fully tap into this potential because of the extreme difficulty in understanding how a building uses and loses energy.

Forward-looking utilities are solving this problem by using big data and analytics to better identify, target and secure these commercial building efficiency opportunities. Here are four ways that big data and analytics are helping utilities meet tough new efficiency mandates by seizing the opportunity in the commercial building market.

Targeting Energy Efficiency Opportunities

To reach increasingly aggressive energy efficiency mandates, utilities must become more sophisticated and proactive in how they target their commercial customer base with their energy efficiency programs.

Aligning the right customers with the right programs has historically been a problem. Utilities typically rely heavily on either leads from inbound requests, or by simply focusing on the biggest energy consumers. Understanding how much energy a customer consumes is a poor indicator for actual energy-saving opportunities. Just because a building uses a lot of energy doesn’t mean it’s not running efficiently – and vice versa. Other industry standard benchmarks that measure energy-use per square foot are not much better at identifying which buildings have significant efficiency potential.

Consider this: 30 percent of the buildings in a utility commercial portfolio account for 70 percent of all energy-saving opportunities (see Fig. 1). In addition, Retroficiency research shows that the highest potential buildings in a given portfolio can save more than 40 percent of their energy with cost-effective upgrades and changes, whereas the lowest potential buildings can save less than 5 percent of their usage. By targeting the subset that has the greatest efficiency opportunity, utilities can focus on the buildings that matter most.

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