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Guest author Janelle Beverly was a graduate student intern at the Environmental Finance Center this past year. This post summarizes the capstone paper she completed in partial fulfillment of an MPA degree from the UNC School of Government.

Increasingly more state and local governments are exploring their options for encouraging energy efficiency through services such as energy retrofit programs in both the public and private spheres. A critical component of ensuring the success of these programs is calculating the actual savings earned, a process which often presents obstacles to program managers. This research project was conducted in response to these reported difficulties, and assessed the completeness of four energy data collection methods employed in Durham City/County, North Carolina. The study found that utility reports did the best job of providing program managers with the information they needed.

In 2009, when the US Department of Energy (DOE) received nearly $42 billion of Recovery Act funds for a variety of ongoing and new projects, almost one third of the funds went to support three major state and local energy efficiency programs: the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), the State Energy Program, and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG). The investment has translated into quick growth of nonprofit and state residential energy retrofit programs, which provide homeowners with energy efficiency upgrades designed to lower their utility bills and increase energy conservation.

“The industry is growing rapidly,” reported the American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy in 2011. “In pursuit of higher savings goals, electricity and natural gas programs are expanding their efforts and seeking new sources of savings, including behavioral change. States that did not previously engage in efficiency programs are now taking advantage of this opportunity.”

With so much investment and growth on the front end, an effective means of quantifying the actual performance and energy savings due to Recovery Act-funded upgrades is necessary. The agency therefore requires quarterly reporting metrics to quantify energy use and demand savings as a result of energy efficiency upgrades. In order to quantify energy use and demand savings, the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol, prepared by the DOE, recommends energy demand savings be determined by comparing measured energy use before and after implementation of an energy savings program. Managers of energy efficiency programs may access this information from public utilities and/or homeowners that received professional energy retrofits, but have reported challenges to collecting this information. This research compared four energy data collection methods employed in Durham City/County, North Carolina—email and mail solicitation, access to a utility database, and batch utility usage reports. Each method was evaluated in terms of completeness, privacy, response, and turnaround rate. The study found that, of the four energy data collection methods, utility reports yielded the most complete and timely access to home energy data.

Read the full report here. For a related report on the evolving roles of local government in energy management, visit our website.


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