University of California and Recurve Demonstrate the Viability of Population Metered Efficiency for College Campuses

June 2, 2021

The University of California and SCE’s Clean Energy Optimization Pilot is a first-of-its-kind, performance-based energy efficiency program that targets and pays for measured carbon reduction at the campus meter rather than simply reduced energy use. 

Conventional wisdom has been that large energy consumers, such as university campuses, require bespoke engineering to measure the impacts of energy efficiency. However, having to customize measurement increases transaction costs and overhead impedes efforts to scale. Customized measurement also often depends on deemed or modeled approaches that yield less than optimal results.

To pave the way for reliable and scalable approaches to deploying energy efficiency and demand flexibility, the University of California engaged Recurve to evaluate the viability of deploying population Normalized Metered Energy Consumption (NMEC) as a carbon-reduction tool for its building stock.

“The UC System is committed to energy efficiency and carbon reduction. While we have been successful in our past energy efficiency investments, we see enormous potential to focus on GHG reductions and scale up our ability to deliver grid and climate benefits. We believe this work with Recurve will pave the way for more efficient outcomes-based approaches, new technologies, and greater innovation,” said Eric Eberhardt, Director of Energy Services at the University of California Office of the President.

Meter-based approaches to demand flexibility such as NMEC can unlock innovation, facilitate the integration of time- and location-sensitive demand flexibility into an ever-cleaner grid, and draw in private financing at the scale needed for these resources to reach their decarbonization potential.

While population NMEC is a well-established tool for measuring aggregated changes in consumption over a large number of buildings with simple consumption profiles, whether this approach produces valid results for large buildings with bespoke energy consumption profiles has, until recently, remained an open question. Examples would include large government buildings, large commercial operations with more complex processes, and university campus buildings.

To see if a meter-based approach would work on its building stock, the University of California System asked Recurve to perform a backcast analysis of past energy efficiency program projects to determine if NMEC could be used to deliver streamlined interventions with proven value.

The analysis focused on the University of California-Irvine (UCI) campus energy efficiency upgrades from 2017 - 2019. These projects were completed in partnership with Southern California Edison as part of the UC/CSU Energy Efficiency Partnership Program.  

Utilizing the daily CalTRACK methods, Recurve determined a baseline model fit with a maximum of 0.34 coefficient of root means squared error (CVRMSE), which is an expression of how well the CalTRACK baseline model can predict energy consumption at the site. This result is more than 50% better at a site level than the 0.75 CVRMSE that is often the upper limit for population NMEC programs, proving the validity of this methodology in evaluating, and ultimately informing, innovative energy efficiency program designs. 

“After working with the UC System, and campus operations at a number of UC campuses, we are excited about the potential of population NMEC to open the door to greater scale and innovation,” said Andrew Meiman, Principal at ARC Alternatives, who supports UC System energy project executions.

Moving forward, the UC System is confident they can deliver a population-NMEC based energy efficiency program should the opportunity arise. Being able to do so unlocks all the benefits the methodology has to offer:

  1. The population NMEC method provides both greater flexibility and accountability for program implementers. Making implementers accountable for savings measured at the meter eliminates the need for time-consuming engineering reviews, allowing programs to launch faster and giving implementers more flexibility to innovate on the measures and business models that they deploy. 
  2. By tracking the savings from projects on an ongoing basis, the UC System will have continual feedback on performance as the program is running, allowing them to adjust and optimize projects against savings goals on an ongoing basis.
  3. In comparison to site-based NMEC, this methodology limits M&V costs and administrative overhead while adding in the statistical benefit of project aggregation. This helps achieve the best fractional savings uncertainty possible across the portfolio, thereby adding even more value to the savings claims.

Check out the Recurve blog for more details on the population-based NMEC methodology.

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