Opower and Aquicore Discuss State and Challenges of Energy Efficiency July 8, 2014 | Samantha Dubrow

“When I first started trying to figure out how to get access to building energy data, I was in a building with an engineer, and his way of getting data was to wake up in the morning, grab his cup of coffee, go down to the basement, and physically read the utility meter LED screen. He was a great engineer because he was going down to collect the data every morning, but this proved that getting data out of buildings is still a significant problem.”
– Logan Soya, Aquicore CEO

 

On June 27th, Aquicore CEO, Logan Soya, and Opower Associate Director of Engagement, Asher Burns-Burg, partnered to speak at the DC Energy & Data Summit, where they discussed the current state of energy efficiency in the real estate industry, and the challenges faced when trying to reduce energy consumption.

You can find the entire video of the Data Success Stories Panel online. Below are a few key takeaways from the challenges they discussed.

 

CHALLENGE 1: Getting building owners and tenants motivated to save energy.


Solution.
Opower discovered that the most effective way to engage people in energy saving techniques is through the use of social norms to motivate their behavior. During the Data Summit, Burns-Berg summarized the Cialdini study, where a bunch of graduate students went from door to door in southern California and hung door hangers on various houses. There were three different hangers, which read:

 

  • “Turn off your AC, turn on your fan. It’s going to save you money.
  • “Turn off your AC, turn on your fan. It’s the right thing to do for the planet.
  • “Turn off your AC, turn on your fan. All of your neighbors are doing it.

 

Over the course of about two months, the graduate students went back to the houses and read the utility meters to see the effect that the door hangers had on energy consumption. Houses with the third hanger, telling residents to reduce their consumption because all of their neighbors were doing it, reduced their consumption by six percent. The other two hangers did not have any effect at all. By personalizing the message and utilizing the power of social norms, you can get people to pay attention to their energy consumption.

 

CHALLENGE 2: Very few buildings utilize submetering.

Solution. Until a few years ago, submetering was a very expensive investment and was challenging to implement.

The Internet of Things has played a great role in the ability to easily submeter buildings. With web-based meters, it is easy to store energy data on the cloud, which can be accessed by third party vendors. With a reduction in hardware investments, submetering has become a viable solution for an extensive variety of buildings.

Small_Submeter

Large buildings in New York are actually required to submeter their buildings. This allows for tenants to be billed for the energy that they themselves use. By having the specific consumption data broken down for buildings, owners can see exactly where most of the energy is being spent, and tenants can claim responsibility for what they use.

With New York policy supporting submetering and real-time data, building owners come face-to-face with the value of the continuous flow of information. More policies like this will spread an understanding of how helpful real-time data really is, allowing the practice to be spread to buildings that are not required to be submetered by law.

 

CHALLENGE 3: Building owners are primarily concerned with time-to-value.

Solution. Although there has been a big push for sustainable buildings over the last few years, money is still the top priority for buildings owners. Therefore, it can be challenging to convince them to invest in energy-saving projects that will save them money, but not immediately.

Companies that provide energy management solutions bestow the ability to easily collect real-time data from every unique building. Cloud-based software solutions are much less expensive than complex on-site solutions that integrate with Building Management Systems (BMS), and they have much shorter ROIs.

It means that the time to value drops from 3 to 5 years to only a few months. It is a huge step forward for energy efficient building management.

ROI

Energy efficiency is certainly a hot topic for cities across the world, but projects to reduce consumption still have stalled start times. Through the development of simple energy management tools and continued legislative policies supporting sustainable cities, we will begin to see a reduction in our carbon footprint. The next step is to ensure that building owners and tenants nationwide are informed about the ease, ROI, and effectiveness of investing in energy efficiency.

 

Energy Consumption, energy data, Energy Efficiency, real-time data, ROI, Submetering, Sustainability

About The Author

When Samantha isn’t writing for the blog or managing our HR like a champ, she studies Organizational Psychology at George Washington University.