Power and renewables

As we approach the lighting savings cliff, utilities must embrace data to evolve demand side management programs

Evolve Demand Side Management Programs

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Wesley Whited

Wesley Whited

Advanced Lighting & Controls Senior Consultant

See why utilities must tap consumption & participation data to identify DSM portfolio gaps & evolve EE programs to reduce overreliance on lighting savings.

For years LED lighting has been the low-hanging fruit of clean energy programs, delivering impactful kWh savings, reducing costs, and helping utilities and their customers meet environmental targets. In fact, LED lighting programs have been so successful that market saturation is projected to peak nationally in 2024, with all savings disappearing by 20301.  

As we approach this lighting savings cliff, uncovering new energy efficiency savings opportunities gets more challenging. And for many utilities, there is no plan B, with most on track to miss clean energy goals by a factor of ten2—exposing themselves and their customers to environmental and financial consequences. 

To reduce overreliance on lighting savings, utilities must act now to identify underperforming measure classes and innovative solutions. Below, I’ll share how streamlining, contextualizing, and visualizing consumption and participation data can help utilities diversify their portfolios and kick off the next generation of clean energy programs.   

The Not-So-Hidden Opportunities Revealed by Data   

As someone tasked with matching measures to customers, I scour consumption and past participation data daily to help utilities discover and sell new opportunities to their customers. By looking to data, utilities can quickly see which customers are using the most energy and what kinds of energy programs, if any, they’re participating in.  

We can also use data to segment the market and identify opportunities and strategies for reaching each. Once opportunities are identified within a segment, we can examine underperforming measure classes, such as HVAC, refrigeration, and motors and drives, to determine the solutions and technologies that can drive energy savings cost effectively.  

For example, we know that industrial customers that are not participating in energy programs tend to provide the biggest opportunities. In fact, a 5-10% energy reduction in one industrial facility can be more impactful than retrofitting a dozen homes.  

I recently mined consumption and participation data for a large industrial customer in the midwestern US and uncovered an opportunity to drive substantial energy savings through network lighting controls. Working with the utility’s key account manager, we determined that a one-time $600K investment in network lighting controls would save the customer $350,000 dollars annually, and produce a Net Present Value of over $1M. Based on these findings, the key account manager convinced the CFO to move forward, matched them to a qualified contractor and solution, and ultimately, delivered a high-impact, cost-effective solution. 

Lack of Advanced Data Analytics Is Holding Utilities Back 

A key challenge utilities face is regulatory uncertainty around future goals and desired outcomes. But the bigger challenge, in my opinion, is understanding how data analysis can be useful for executing current operations while also planning for tomorrow.  

Much of this comes down to digital transformation. Utilities have a vast amount of data at their fingertips. But without the proper analytics tools, portfolio managers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data coming from multiple data streams. They’re at a loss as to how to combine and organize the data to surface contextual insights. Plus, knowing where to begin can feel much like starting a 10,000-piece puzzle of the ocean.  

While many utilities are leveraging data solutions that have been retrofitted for their use, few have made the leap to using connected, real-time solutions designed specifically for the energy industry by experts with extensive insider knowledge. All too often, data analysis is performed manually using tools like Excel to consolidate point-in-time reports from disparate systems—a tedious, time consuming undertaking with high potential for human error. 

Transform Data Analytics with the EVOLVE Digital Suite 

If utilities are to continue meeting clean energy targets after the LED lighting bubble bursts, they must tap the power of data to uncover new opportunities. They must embrace modern solutions like EVOLVE Digital Suite. In a recent blog post my colleague, Thomas Quasarano, shared how Consumers Energy is leveraging EVOLVE to inform strategy, planning, and forecasting. In fact, he is so reliant on EVOLVE, that he calls it his co-pilot—an apt description.  

EVOLVE Digital Suite is designed to accelerate energy programs by streamlining program management and connecting utilities and their customers and partners to the insights, resources, and incentives needed to drive impact. In particular, EVOLVE facilitates data analytics by accelerating analysis, leaving more time to identify new opportunities and the right technologies to drive down energy usage. One thing I love about EVOLVE is that it doesn’t just surface data, such as participant savings ratios and savings ratio comparisons—it visualizes that data. And that really grabs people’s attention. Backed by four decades of DNV experience, EVOLVE is truly the most robust solution on the market.  

Solutions like EVOLVE that streamline data analytics are critical to helping utilities take advantage of new and emerging energy efficiency opportunities and adapt to changing markets and market actors. Check out the EVOLVE landing page to explore the full capabilities or reach out for a demo

1 DLC report on Energy Savings Potential of Networked Lighting Controls  2 For example, data from PPL’s (PA) PY10 Impact Evaluation found that C&I lighting saved ~141,000 MWh while C&I HVAC saved ~11,000 MWh, meaning that this utility would need to increase HVAC savings 12.7 times to backfill lighting savings.

Contact us:

Wesley Whited

Wesley Whited

Advanced Lighting & Controls Senior Consultant