Measurement and Verification, frequently abbreviated M&V, is a process for quantifying the precise impact on energy use of a conservation measure. It is an essential process for buildings investing in efficiency because it puts numbers to a difficult-to-quantify process and makes it easy to calculate the economic impact of an investment.
One important thing to understand about M&V is that it must express findings in terms of energy saved, rather than cost saved. This is because an energy conservation measure has (ideally) a direct impact on energy use, not expenditures.
For example, an investment in an energy management system may help a building to reduce electricity use by 30%. If electricity costs were to decline by 50% in this same time period, the cost reduction would by 60%, but it would be inaccurate to attribute this entire drop in expenditures to the energy conservation measure.
That being said, it is easy to use M&V to calculate the financial impact of an energy conservation measure by applying current energy prices to the reduction in use.
It is important to measure the environmental and economic impact of any investment in an energy conservation measure, but there are a few specific benefits that are worth mentioning.
First and foremost, measurement and verification is often used to extrapolate the energy savings of a measure in one building to many similar buildings. Big box stores like Walmart and Home Depot are constantly working to drive their energy usage down, and M&V allows them to test a measure in one store before rolling it out to thousands of stores across the world.
Measurement and verification is also frequently used by building teams that are pursuing or attempting to enhance an energy efficiency certification like LEED or ENERGY STAR. A strong M&V plan gives credibility to the impact of an energy conservation measure by lending the process a high degree of transparency.
Finally, the deep look into the way that a planned energy efficiency investment will fit into a building’s existing systems encourages more complete project design. This can help engineers and building managers to reduce operational and maintenance problems over the life of the investment and better plan for future investments.
While different energy conservation measures require a variety of M&V processes, there are common practices. According to the Efficiency Valuation Organization, which defines best practices under the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol, M&V is characterized by installing and maintaining energy meters, gathering data, developing methods for computation and estimates, using data for computations, and reporting verified results. While not every project will go through every step, most will go through the majority of them.
Applying a systematic approach to measurement and verification is the best way to determine the true impact of an investment in energy efficiency. Building teams that apply this tool correctly can get a better picture of how their building works, where and when it is using energy, and how best to make future changes.