Getting the most out of energy efficiency depends upon our ability to collect, process, and act on energy-related data. While data like these have been collected for decades, the recent proliferation of building and electric grid sensors, meters, databases, and analysis software is enabling a new understanding of how society consumes energy and how we can maximize energy savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Making the most of these opportunities will yield benefits for homeowners, businesses, utilities, policymakers, and many others.
Energy efficiency is increasingly recognized as a time-sensitive resource, meaning the hour in which energy is saved is relevant. Datasets from sources like the Energy Information Administration, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Environmental Protection Agency that capture the performance of the grid—including when power plants are operating and the quantity of emissions they produce—play a key role in determining the hours during which energy efficiency delivers the most value.
The growing number of grid-interactive efficient buildings with advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) that can collect, transmit, and record electricity consumption can leverage those data to conserve energy at optimal times. This includes periods when the price of energy is high or generation is carbon intensive. When paired with strong customer engagement tools, pricing strategies, and incentive programs, AMI can lead to insights that motivate customers to reduce their energy use.
Utilities can play a key role in energy conservation by utilizing data to develop customer energy efficiency offerings. These data include local building stock characteristics, quantity and performance of installed equipment (e.g., HVAC, lighting, electric vehicles), and climate forecasts. When coupled with estimated savings from energy conservation measures, utilities can construct energy efficiency portfolios that provide customers with options that can deliver them large savings on their bill alongside other key benefits. Energy consumption data reported to meet building benchmarking requirements can also help identify commercial customers with sizable energy savings potential.
ACEEE strongly supports improved funding support for energy efficiency data collection efforts by relevant agencies including the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Census Bureau. Improved coordination across agencies and more extensive modeling (e.g., through the National Energy Modeling System) can provide insights useful for answering a wide range of policy questions. The government should also support open-source tools that can standardize, organize, transmit, and preserve energy data. These tools should be designed to meet our largest savings needs, be easy to use, preserve customer privacy, and be cybersecure.
For more information or to contact a researcher, please visit the utilities program.