Monthly Archives: August 2014

ACEEE Summer Study

After hearing about the ACEEE Summer Study for years, I finally had the opportunity to attend this year’s event.  I caught up bonfirewith a lot of colleagues and made new connections over the multi-day event.  The sessions were informative, and the informal sessions enabled people to deep dive into single subjects.  One informal session that stood out for me was moderated by Mike Li of the DOE, who wanted feedback back on the subject of certifying evaluators.  Very interesting discussion and the group determined it was worth pursuing.

The evening plenary sessions were well attended, and we were treated to hearing from many of the industry’s thought leaders.  Of course, it was great to note three Opinion Dynamics professionals made it through the tough paper review process to earn spots on the program. Congratulations to Erinn Munroe, Megan Campbell and Mikhail Haramati.  Thanks to the 20 or so people who hung in with Mikhail’s session until the bitter end (last session of the last day of the conference!).

But don’t get me wrong, the Summer Study is not all about business. Networking is encouraged in the afternoons and evenings and the options ranged from biking to hiking to whale watching or just settling into a deck chair and see who dropped by for a visit.  Networking is probably the single most value of the conference, and ACEEE does a nice job of making sure people have time to visit, exchange cards, etc.

As one of the 1,150 people who attended, my congrats to the ACEEE staff and an army of volunteers for organizing a great event!


What to do with a Mature Energy Efficiency Program

Written by Mikhail Haramati

At AESP’s summer conference in San Francisco, I moderated a panel on how to prepare mature energy efficiency programs for transition.  This is a sensitive topic, but one that we will increasingly confront as savings opportunities disappear. Federal codes and years of successful programs has diminished the remaining savings available in many states.

On the one hand, lack of easy opportunities is a good thing. It means that we have lower utility bills and are no longer wasting as much energy. Yet for program implementers, life has become more difficult. The easy savings from lighting retrofits are harder and harder to find, and they have to spend more time on site to achieve the same level of savings. If we want to continue to see high energy savings in the future – possibly the lowest cost approach to GHG emission reduction around – new program models and strategies are urgently needed.

The problem is that as an industry, we’re not good at acknowledging when an energy efficiency program is successful and needs to change.  We spend a lot of time thinking about how to create new programs, methods for increasing savings, and how to identify new markets for energy efficient products and services.  As a program becomes more established, trained workforces are created, businesses come to rely on the program, and administrators count on them as a sure source of energy savings.  Yet at a certain point, the program is either subsidizing a market that would not be there on its own, or is using program dollars to encourage people to do things they would have done anyway.  How can we best figure out when programs have run their course?

The answer is not so clear.  A program may be no longer needed in its current form when program goals are met, when there’s little price differential between efficient and non-efficient options, or when it’s simply no longer cost-effective to run the program.

The opportunity cost of continuing to run a mature program is not insignificant. Providing rebates where they are not needed may seem harmless, but means that those same funds cannot be used to incentivize other energy savings actions. And worse, they may be propping a market that would not or could not exist on its own.

Why not simply end a mature program? Starting program also has costs and requires large, upfront investments of time and resources. An existing program has program implementers who are experienced, know the program rules, have developed established relationships with the community and their program administrators. They understand their target markets, have refined their program offerings and design, and have developed a business around delivering efficiency.

The panelists at AESP had several suggestions for what can be done to modify existing programs without ending them altogether.

  • Avoid fast dramatic change
  • Highly value and cultivate trade-ally collaboration
  • Avoid quickly pulling out of a market which is still in transition
  • Grandfather in customer’s who made a decision under the old program but would otherwise no longer qualify
  • Utilize contractor cooperative marketing to communicate change
  • Incorporate evaluation and process improvements to continually refine programs
  • Ask employees to propose process improvements

If our programs are truly successful at transforming markets and removing old, inefficient equipment, eventually they will need to change. While we accept this in theory, in practice it’s much harder than it looks.

Check out our other presentations from the AESP Summer Conference:

Understanding Commercial Real Estate Decision-Making to Improve Program Design and Targeting

A Whole Building Approach to The Multifamily Market-Lessons Learned from Pilot Efforts


CEEIC Smart Grid Integration Symposium

Written by: Mikhail Haramati and Alan Elliott

At the recently held CEEIC Smart Grid Integration Symposium, policy makers and innovators from the tech community learned about opportunities for future collaboration in the development of California’s smart grid. Attendees from many sectors of the energy and technology industries came to the event, hosted at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, CA. California has aggressive energy efficiency and greenhouse has reduction goals that cannot be achieved through policy alone, and business innovation is a critical part of filling the gap.

working group 3

The symposium kicked off with a panel of representatives from California’s energy policymaking organizations. These panelists discussed the status of the smart grid, California’s policy goals, and strategies for the future of energy generation and energy use. Key to this discussion was how technology innovations related to Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)-generated data will be leveraged in the future to enhance the way customers understand and manage their energy use. Examples included Green Button Connect and smart phone/smart thermostat connectivity.

Next, a panel representing demand-reduction businesses from the tech industry had a chance to present their vision of the future of the smart grid. Importantly, they discussed challenges related to regulatory and energy policy, and how changes to these policy can enable them to take full advantage of the smart grid’s potential and become greater contributors towards California’s energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction goals. The technologies being developed by the panelists were amazing examples of what’s in store for California, including optimized demand response management for utilities and smart phone/tablet apps that offer energy use dashboards for customers.

Finally, members from these panels and other audience members came together in a roundtable discussion facilitated by Opinion Dynamics (pictured above) to discuss next steps to increase business collaboration and innovation. Recommendations included avoiding “pilot-itus,” where smart grid technologies get stuck in small-scale test phases and, despite their merits, are never scaled to a utility or third party program. Other challenges included opening up more competitive markets for smart grid technologies, standardizing data, and rethinking impact evaluation approaches to adapt to an increasingly integrated system of energy efficiency, emerging technology, and demand response. Following the roundtable, the event ended with emphatic support for the establishment of a core group interested in contributing to a whitepaper summarizing the discussion during the Symposium, identifying next steps forward.