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Jessica Granderson © 2010 The Regents of the University of California, through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


Dept. Of Energy Smart Energy Campaign With Berkeley Lab Saves $95 Million Per Year

A 4-year Department of Energy smart energy analytics initiative facilitated by Berkeley Lab has collectively saved $95 million dollars a year. Hannah Kramer and Dr. Jessica Granderson answered some questions about the initiative for CleanTechnica.

Anyone who follows energy knows that solar power, wind power, energy storage, and electric vehicles are all growing and fossil fuels are beginning to fade. Another important piece of the current energy and decarbonization puzzle, although perhaps a less talked-about aspect, is energy management and analytics. The global energy management market in 2021 could reach $76 billion in value, for example.

A 4-year Department of Energy smart energy analytics initiative facilitated by Berkeley Lab has collectively saved $95 million dollars a year. The lab worked with 104 schools, businesses, governments, and organizations to reduce energy costs in commercial buildings. Two employees at Berkeley Lab, Hannah Kramer and Dr. Jessica Granderson, answered some questions about the initiative for CleanTechnica.

What technology was used to better manage energy consumption?

Dr. Jessica Granderson, Image credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Energy management and information systems (EMIS) were used. These comprise a family of smart building analytics technologies used to reveal hidden energy waste and provide predictive, optimized control.

In a continuous energy management process, data from sensors and meters are collected and stored in a central warehouse for analysis. Automated analytics transmit actionable information on improvements to the user, and in some cases, transmit supervisory control commands to the building’s equipment. Based on the analytics recommendations, users make repairs or improvements. The technology’s monitoring capabilities are then used to track ongoing performance and to measure savings.

In contrast to efficient equipment, EMIS offer a software-based process tool for owners, operators, and facility managers to proactively manage comfort, system performance, and utility costs. User engagement and management leadership are essential to unlocking the power of EMIS.

How did Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) reach out and work with various organizations to reduce building energy costs?

We worked with our organizing partners, the Building Commissioning Association, Commonwealth Edison, the International Facility Management Association and Building Owners and Managers Association to get the word out. We asked for referrals from our network of supporting partners representing the manufacturer and service provider community, and we leveraged DOE’s Better Buildings partners. We also utilized our team’s professional relationships and outreach at conferences.

Once we had successfully recruited participants, we then provided a variety of technical assistance to support them in serving maximum benefit from the technology. We offered individualized direct technical assistance, facilitated peer-to-peer sessions for participants to learn from one another, hosted webinars on specific topics of interest, and provided pointers to and summaries of existing resources (guides, specs, etc.) aligned with participant’s current needs and activities.

Hannah Kramer, Image credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

So far, have all the organizations been in California?                                     

Not at all. The study cohort included broad geographic diversity with buildings and participant organizations from across the US. This diversity in location, climate, and building type was important to enable generalized conclusions about technology efficacy. 

$95 million a year has been saved so far, how much more can be saved by those organizations using energy analytics and management?

Reported savings are based on annual energy use two years after EMIS installation, as compared to the annual energy used in the year prior to technology installation. (This allows for a ramp up time, and for implementation of fixes based on EMIS recommendations.) As owners continue to use analytics, they can uncover additional savings opportunities, including capital as well as operational measures. EMIS play a critical role in identifying opportunities and ensuring that savings from improvements persist over time. In fact, our data showed increased savings multiple years after EMIS were installed, suggesting that other energy management activities were indeed being deployed alongside the EMIS.

($95 million is the estimated annual savings when all campaign participants have implemented their planned EMIS; so far, about 20% of participating organizations are in their planning stages, and we assume that they will save at the average level of their peers in the cohort.)

How long might it take to reach $4 billion a year in savings?

If all target buildings installed EMIS, we estimate that savings would reach $4 billion per year, this is known as technical potential, which is distinguished from actual adoption rates and diffusion in the market. Target buildings are commercial facilities above 100,000 square feet excluding warehouses, which represents almost 30 billion square feet of commercial floorspace across the US. It’s hard to say how long it will take commercial building owners to take full advantage of data analytics in their operations, and what the ultimate market adoption rates will be. 

The first 15 years of EMIS, uptake was fairly slow and few EMIS software developers were in the market. There are now well over 100 software providers, and the use of data to inform building operations is becoming more commonplace. Eventually, having an EMIS will be expected by building engineers, and ongoing monitoring and analytics will be a standard operating process. 

Are the organizations that were part of the Smart Energy Analytics Campaign also using solar power and/or energy storage?

Many of the organizations in the campaign have also installed solar PV systems, and a few have integrated battery storage systems into some buildings in their portfolio. There’s a trend toward solar and storage to manage utility bill demand charges and to meet sustainability goals, so we see a future in which EMIS integrate the data from these distributed energy resources in addition to integrating the traditional energy meters and HVAC system data.  

Do the organizations also receive any incentives for reducing energy consumption like tax breaks, grants or rebates?

Utility programs are one of our primary vehicles to drive uptake of building energy efficiency, however few utilities offer incentive programs for EMIS. Efficient equipment is still where the lion’s share of incentives are directed. One of our goals in this work was to document technology costs, benefits, and best practices across an install base large enough to provide the evidence that utility efficiency programs need to further accelerate technology adoption. Even though the payback on the investment is favorable (only two years), the need for incentive programs to help owners take the step to using analytics is important for broad adoption in the market.

Do the organizations have dedicated staff who manage the use of energy analytics and energy efficiency?

One exciting more recent driver of adoption of analytics has been the diversification of technology delivery models. It used to be that only organizations with relatively sophisticated in-house energy management teams were those able to harness the benefits of EMIS. Today we are seeing third-party efficiency service providers incorporating analytics into their offerings for building owner clients, and also a growing number of ‘analysis as a service’ offerings from the technology developers themselves. This has all opened the door for a broader cross section of the market to reap the benefits of analytics.

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