Measurement & Verification (M&V) is a crucial tool in assessing and understanding the effectiveness of energy efficiency programs in order to achieve clean energy goals. Advanced M&V (also called M&V 2.0) is an emerging area that I had the privilege to learn about in two recent NEEP events at the outset of my time as an intern: a webinar on protocols for advanced M&V and NEEP’s New York State Partners Advanced M&V workshop. Both of these events are part of an ongoing project by a team of collaborators, including NEEP, Connecticut utilities, Connecticut DEEP, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and states in the Northeast who have been researching advanced M&V for several years. The event was sponsored by NYSERDA and the U.S. Department of Energy, two powerful partners that underscore the importance of the continued development of advanced M&V.
Here are some key takeaways from the workshop:
Traditional vs. Advanced M&V
Advanced M&V is nuanced. It builds on the traditional model and provides new capabilities to stakeholders, but there is not a distinct line between the two concepts. With traditional program evaluation, the M&V process could take years because of the need to compare before and after conditions while blacking out the treatment period when efficiency measures are being installed. Advanced M&V allows programs to access and use data on a much more rapid timeline.
In addition to more rapid data, advanced M&V can utilize more granular data, allowing for program insights on a more detailed level. This can lead to increasingly targeted and cost-effective improvements. Workshop participants agree that advanced M&V is a more dynamic process that provides stakeholders with data interaction through tools such as filters for the data in order to think more specifically about use cases and problems that need solving. NYSERDA, for example, was able to examine how weather data affects evaluations, and the ability to sort through the data and do this kind of analysis is a huge step forward.
Advanced M&V is not one set process but a more detailed and ongoing, near real-time way of approaching M&V. One organization shared its experience using concurrent evaluation and implementation to provide feedback to projects on an accelerated quarterly basis, even without having the advanced data infrastructure that it is hoping to access in the future. Another organization commented that it may be participating in advanced M&V without even knowing it!
Benefits and Considerations of Advanced M&V
Advanced M&V is still an emerging process, and as organizations run pilot programs, we’re benefitting from this experience and getting a clearer picture of what is involved in the process. The benefits of advanced M&V over traditional M&V are significant, but they also come with some challenges to navigate.
One challenge is the ability to define the appropriate blackout or treatment period for any given customer. When efficiency programs are implemented, utilities track many different dates, and while this uncertainty can be okay for traditional M&V programs that look at big picture data only, advanced M&V using more detailed (daily or hourly) data requires more firm definitions of a blackout period in order to account for program impacts. For programs that treat a whole building, they may install some measures at one point in time and others at a later date. Advanced M&V can pick up these changes but needs to have a definitive start and stop treatment date. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s analysis of the Eversource and United Illuminating Commercial Advanced M&V Pilot accounted for the imprecision of dates by utilizing a broad blackout period to ensure clear baseline and performance periods, but the ability to get more accurate dates and use a smaller blackout periods has a lot of benefits. As experience with Advanced M&V programs builds, more precision around determining blackout periods will likely develop.
In a residential pilot, Connecticut utilities used advanced M&V to calculate savings from a previous year’s Home Energy Services residential retrofit program. They compared the results and the process with a recently completed evaluation of the program. They also used the advanced M&V software to examine household characteristics of nonparticipating customers. One finding from Eversource CT’s data was that nearly all of the savings in the program came from customers in the top half of pre-project energy usage. One obvious group of high-energy users is large homes owned by wealthy homeowners. However, it is also important to make sure that programs consider equity and include people and projects across the income spectrum. Advanced M&V was able to provide detailed data on household characteristics by locations, by vendors, and other features via a dashboard. This feature of Advanced M&V enables utilities to thoughtfully target future participants and tailor marketing strategies accordingly. By targeting participants, and also by using data to classify projects according to trends and adjusting projects accordingly, organizations can manage the risk associated with investing in advanced M&V projects.
Advanced M&V skews towards the “M” (measurement); most of the time an advanced M&V program is dedicated to data processing. This allows for detailed, ongoing, and dynamic information, and it also means that good data management is key to effective advanced M&V programs. This emphasis on data does not free humans from the process, but instead creates a need for experienced professionals to assess data and profiles from advanced M&V programs in order to make judgement calls on next steps.
The workshop wrapped up with an open discussion, with part of the conversation focusing on some of the technical wrinkles that still need to be ironed out as use of advanced M&V evolves. These include how non-routine events (like COVID-19) are adjusted into evaluation practice, and how we can integrate advanced M&V with generation data.
Protocols for Advanced M&V and Future Directions
Interestingly, in April, NEEP and the project team delivered a webinar on protocols for Advanced M&V that addressed several of the questions raised in the workshop discussion. The webinar covered the Efficiency Valuation Organization (EVO) Advanced M&V Software Testing Portal, its Snapshot on Advanced M&V white paper and a preview of and IPMVP Application Guide expected this summer. Although these resources did not answer all the questions about technical wrinkles that got discussed in the NY, they did represent a large step forward, including affirming that several of the more challenging issues are being actively addressed.
In a world challenged by COVID-19 and racial injustice, the imperative to work towards a more energy efficient and clean Earth has only become more urgent, and advanced M&V is an exciting tool to help us get there.