Our Story Thus Far

Next Generation Energy Act of 2007

Although utility demand side management (DSM) activities date to the early 1980s in Minnesota, municipal and cooperative utility oversight was limited until recently. In 2007, MN passed sweeping energy and climate legislation referred to as the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007. The Act established an energy efficiency resource standard for all utilities, including COUs, equal to 1.5 percent of annual sales beginning in 2010. The new emphasis on achieving savings impacts, especially for munis and co-ops, placed greater emphasis on EM&V and highlighted the need for a robust reporting system to ensure program accountability and transparency.

Up until this time, only MN IOUs were required to submit detailed reports on DSM program activity to the state regulator, the MN Department of Commerce. Now, there was a need for stronger oversight of 173 municipal and cooperative utilities in addition to the 11 IOUs. Many of the munis and co-ops had little to no experience with DSM up until this point.

Recognizing this as an opportunity to create high value, Energy Platforms met with the MN Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources and proposed an information services “platform” that all of the utilities could use to manage and report on EE programs. We called this system Energy Savings Platform.

MN Data Acquisition, Round 1

Our first EE data acquisition project was to collect program level EE data from all COUs for the years 2008 and 2009.

Because the utilities had previously reported data using spreadsheets, we decided to use spreadsheets for one more year. We distributed spreadsheets to utilities using a web site, which included FAQ information, definitions, and documents in support of the spreadsheets.

We collected sales data for each utility, and program data for each of their DSM programs. We implemented functionality in the spreadsheets to upload data directly into our database over the internet (we did not collect finished spreadsheets).

Even so, we ran into some support problems due to the nature of spreadsheets. While gathering data using spreadsheets may seem simple, distributed spreadsheet applications have intrinsic problems that can cause confusion, frustrate users, and drive up support costs.

We then cleansed the data by developing algorithms to identify outliers, contacting those utilities, and allowing them to update the data when appropriate.

MN Data Acquisition, Round 2

Our second data acquisition mission was to collect EE program level data for 2010.

This time we created online forms using MS Silverlight rather than spreadsheets. ESP functionality includes sending invitations to users to create a secure account within an Organization, and allow each organization to manage its own users.

So we sent invitations to our contacts at the utilities, and in turn, those contacts sent invitations to others in their organization to perform data entry or review data as appropriate.

Privileges in ESP are constrained to the user’s organization where appropriate. For example, every organization could see all 2008 and 2009 data, but a user could only see or edit their own Organization’s 2010 data during the 2010 data acquisition period.

We are now analyzing and cleansing 2010 data. The online data acquisition generated far fewer help desk issues than the spreadsheet round.

Multiple Reporting Levels

To date, we have acquired data from 168 utilities on over 2200 energy efficiency programs. We can aggregate the MN program level data to the state level.

In 2012 we will begin collecting EE data from the utilities at the measure level. This level of granularity will enable detailed analysis of program performance.

One of the keys to successful data collection is to supply some functionality to the user that results in the acquisition of the data.

So we are providing online project management tools to utilities on ESP that automatically calculate savings values according to the MN deemed savings specification. If utilities or trade partners use our Smart Measures for a project, they:

  • Eliminate paper and pockets of data
  • Eliminate rekeying and communication errors
  • Get automatic savings reporting in real time
  • No longer need spreadsheet savings calculators
  • Reduce cost in administration and manual workflow
  • Ensure accurate rebate calculations
  • Eliminate server and internal IT costs

For those utilities using Smart Measures, measure data are automatically aggregated in ESP to produce program, portfolio, and state level savings and incentive spending.

A National Vision

In surveying the current state of EE data in the USA, we have identified a clear need for better data management at the national level. The state of the art in the energy efficiency domain seems to be based on Excel spreadsheets, pdfs, and MS Access databases. It's time to do it right.

We have built Energy Savings Platform as a fully scalable solution, capable of handling all of the EE programs and measures implemented in the nation.

More Information...

Please Contact Us for more information or a demonstration of ESP.