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What is Intelligent Efficiency?

MEEA Unplugged Blog - February 5, 2016 - 12:23pm

As MEEA continues its efforts to make valuable contributions to the national conversation on intelligent efficiency, it’s important to step back and take a moment to define this somewhat nebulous concept. ACEEE has done a great job of helping energy efficiency stakeholders understand what this term means through several research reports, web outlets and two high-quality conferences on the subject. Their 2013 report, Intelligent Efficiency: Opportunities, Barriers, and Solutions, defines intelligent efficiency as:

“…the deployment of affordable next-generation sensor, control, and communication technologies that help us gather, manage, interpret, communicate, and act upon disparate and often large volumes of data to improve device, process, facility, or organization performance and achieve new levels of energy efficiency.”

It’s a bit of a mouthful, but it gives us a useful framework. MEEA gets a lot of questions about this from our stakeholders, and we’ve realized that it isn’t always obvious what makes efficiency “intelligent.”

Here are a few lessons MEEA has learned that might help clear things up:

The system is greater than the sum of its parts

A central idea behind the concept of intelligent efficiency is that savings can be accounted for at the system level. This is contrary to more traditional energy efficiency approaches that rely on discreet measures and deemed savings. An intelligent efficiency system may have many contributing components, such as sensors, software, dashboards, algorithms and controls, all working in tandem to bring about deep energy savings.

The opposite of intelligent efficiency isn’t dumb efficiency

Calling this new wave of developments “intelligent” doesn’t mean traditional efficiency efforts or measures have less value – rather, intelligence means those efforts or measures are “adaptive, anticipatory and networked” (Elliot, Molina, & Trombley, 2012).

Intelligent efficiency doesn’t mean Artificial Intelligence

For most of these solutions, humans are still the critical element, as they simply enable users to make better, faster decisions and improve upon inevitable behavioral inconsistencies. A recent paper from the Information Technology Industry Council predicts that these systems “will encourage a significantly greater number of uses and users, facilitate a more collaborative engagement of consumers and producers, and amplify learning and productivity” (Laitner, McDonnell, & Keller, 2015).

The savings potential is worth your attention

ACEEE estimated the annual energy cost savings potential for the commercial and manufacturing sectors from intelligent efficiency to be $50 billion (2013). In the industry-heavy Midwest, the potential for savings is massive.

Efficiency as a concept hasn’t changed…

Stephen Lacey of Greentech Media says “at its core, energy efficiency is still about the nuts and bolts of changing equipment and improving the physical components of a facility. Information is not a panacea and is not a substitute for the physical integration of new systems. But it is becoming the glue binding the holistic, system-wide approach that is starting to define the intelligent efficiency business” (2013).

… But, intelligence could change the way we do it

By predicting the weather, enabling communication across production lines, providing real-time savings measurement and verification, preventing savings degradation, enabling system self-diagnosis and prioritizing maintenance needs, dematerializing infrastructure systems, enabling energy managers to collect and analyze large amounts of complex data, and enabling access to a host of non-energy benefits heretofore unavailable to traditional efficiency approaches, intelligent efficiency has the potential to maximize, expand and dramatically improve existing efficiency efforts.

So how do you tell if something is intelligent efficiency or not? For MEEA, whether or not a solution fits into these parameters is less important than its potential to improve how we do energy efficiency in the Midwest. For many consumers and energy managers, the non-energy benefits of smart, networked devices and systems are already changing the economics of efficiency opportunities. For utilities and program administrators, we are already experiencing a wave of new products, solutions and platforms that can be employed as exciting, new program measures or as useful tools that enhance the delivery and management of programs.

Whatever the technology, if it helps us collect and act on big data, enhance device and process efficiency, enable system-wide performance improvements, or adapt to changing conditions, we’ll call it intelligent, and we’ll encourage all our stakeholders to take a closer look.

Further reading

Elliott, N., Molina, M. & Trombley, D. (2012). A Defining Framework for Intelligent Efficiency. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Research Report E125. Link to report.

Lacey, S. (2013). Intelligent Efficiency: Innovations Reshaping the Energy Efficiency Market. Greentech Media Special Report. Link to report.

Laitner, J.A., McDonnell, M.T., & Keller, R.M. (2015). ICT-Enabled Intelligent Efficiency: Shifting from Device-Specific Approaches to System Optima. Digital Energy and Sustainability Solutions Campaign, Information Technology Industry Council. Link to report.

(2015). Opportunities for Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) in Advancing Residential Energy Efficiency Programs. Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, Research Report. Link to report.

Rogers, E.A., Elliott, R.N., Kwatra, S., Trombley, D. & Nadadur, V. (2013). Intelligent Efficiency: Opportunities, Barriers, and Solutions. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Research Report E13J. Link to report.

2015 ACEEE Intelligent Efficiency Conference

Earlier MEEA Unplugged post on intelligent efficiency efforts

DOE Announces State Energy Program Funding

MEEA Unplugged Blog - January 27, 2016 - 10:55am

The US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) recently announced a funding opportunity for state governments through a competitive awards application process. The FOA, or Funding Opportunity Announcement, is designed for State Energy Programs (SEP) and has an enactment period of up to 24 months. The submission deadline is March 31, 2016. 

The FOA will award competitive projects in three areas of interest, including:

  1. State Energy Planning
  2. Innovative Opportunities for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Practices* – This area has five Topics of Interest sub-categories:
    1. Working with Utilities to Advance State Energy Reduction and/or Renewable Energy Generation Goals
    2. Enabling Financing Mechanisms for Public or Private Sector Clean Energy Investment
    3. Deploying Energy Performance Benchmarking and Disclosure
    4. Standardizing Evaluation, Measurement & Verification (EM&V) Processes
    5. Partnering with Local Governments
  3. Technical Assistance to Advance SEP Formula Grant Clean Energy Activities

*Some stipulations do exist for funds awarded under Area of Interest 2 – Innovative Opportunities for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Practices. The funding will likely not be awarded to projects that 1) implement specific project-level energy efficiency retrofits or upgrades or 2) directly capitalize financing programs. However, potential applicants under Area of Interest 2 are encouraged to design and develop programs that could lead to the implementation of retrofits using non-award funds. In addition, applicants with projects that develop the framework for financing programs are also urged to apply under this Area of Interest. Lastly, projects submitted under Area of Interest 2, sub-category “Partnering with Local Governments,” are only for open to States that have not received a SEP competitive award in the last four years (FY12-FY15).

We highlight this grant opportunity due to the large impact the grants can have in your communities, as well as the state’s overall energy savings and ability to meet the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

This funding opportunity is set aside for application by state governments, individually or jointly. It is anticipated that DOE will award up to $5.25 million in total funding for up to 20 projects chosen for this FOA (subject to FY2016 Congressional appropriations). Each area of interest has different funding and project maximums. MEEA recommends that state entities who are interested in applying first review the FOA document to confirm the specific grant opportunities.

Suggestions for State Government Applicants

We foresee this funding as an ideal opportunity for state governments to implement a number of energy savings strategies, assessments or program developments at the state or local governmental level

Some ideas MEEA has developed and suggest for inclusion in your FOA response include:

  • Readying Partners and Projects for a Clean Energy Incentive Program – Partner with local governments and other private sector entities on educational activities surrounding energy efficiency and the Clean Energy Incentive Program. The focus of this program could be towards engaging utility implementers and community-based groups. Employing such a program would ensure that the demand for efficiency does exist, should a state want to participate in the EPA’s Clean Energy Incentive Program.
  • Coordinating a Municipal Street Lighting Upgrade Program – A potential state-wide effort to synchronize the conversion of existing, municipally-owned street lights to LED fixtures with dimming controls, yielding significant energy savings and safer citizens. This type of project has the potential to be coordinated with utility-owned street lighting projects for increased bulk purchasing and/or additional savings.
  • Establishing State-wide Evaluation, Measurement and Verification (EM&V) Practices – Developing a process to review energy efficiency projects will be vitally important for using energy efficiency to comply with the Clean Power Plan, regardless of the approach a state takes for compliance. Educating policymakers, evaluators, resource planners and others on the EPA’s final EM&V guidance and requirements (expected later this year) would be the first step. This approach should also include developing a process to review current practices, as well as creating a plan to align your state’s EM&V protocols with the EPA’s requirements, while incorporating best practices.
  • Implementing a Public Building Energy Benchmarking Procedure – Creating a baseline of measured energy consumption in public facilities allows for accurate planning and energy billing confirmation. In addition, an established baseline for existing buildings assists state and local governments to track each building’s energy savings and emission reductions that have occurred or may occur in the future. Some Midwest states and cities have enacted these programs to great success – using them to confirm savings achieved by ESCOs or ESPs, and often see returns on their investment within the first year of implementation.
Resources for Potential Applicants

DOE webinars are planned for January 26 and January 27 to review relevant information on the grant application, suggested areas of interest, focus areas for topic(s), and will include time for questions/answers. Click here for more information about the webinars and important FOA dates. The full application submission deadline is March 31, 2016 at 5pm ET.

MEEA has the experience and the expertise to assist your state in developing or expanding existing programs which are applicable to these awards. Contact Julia Friedman (Clean Energy/EM&V), Rose Jordan (Streetlighting), or Steve Kismohr (Energy Data/Benchmarking) at MEEA to explore this FOA further.

Good luck to all the Midwestern states who apply!


2016 Inspiring Efficiency Award Winners

MEEA Unplugged Blog - January 25, 2016 - 11:18am

This year’s Inspiring Efficiency Award nominees were some of the most impressive candidates we’ve seen in our 12 years honoring the leaders and innovators in the energy efficiency community. Congratulations to all the nominees, and thank you for dedication and vision.

There is a such an interest in each year’s winners that we’ve decided to announce the Education, Impact, Innovation and Marketing winners before the ceremony. We hope that you’ll join us at the dinner to celebrate their accomplishment and learn who will receive the 2016 Leadership and Chairman’s awards. Without further ado, 2016 Inspiring Efficiency Award winners are:

Education: Alliant Energy and Columbia Water & Light

Impact: ComEd: Small Business Energy Savings and MidAmerican Energy Company

Innovation: AEP Ohio – Bid4efficiency Program

Marketing: Consumers Energy/Smart Energy Challenge

Leadership and Chairman’s Awards: Revealed at the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner & Gala


Awards Dinner & GalaThursday, February 25 | 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Chicago Hilton & Towers

Join us for the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner and Gala, where we’ll reveal the winners of the 2016 Leadership and Chairman’s awards. Purchase tickets or an entire table, and help us honor all the 2016 IEA nominees.

12th Annual Inspiring Efficiency Awards – Leadership

MEEA Unplugged Blog - January 14, 2016 - 9:17am

The Inspiring Leadership in Energy Efficiency Award is presented to the organization or individual who has served as a strong leader in support of energy efficiency in their city, state, region, company or community. Candidates may include state and local political leaders, regulatory officials, legislators, state agency directors, corporations or other policymakers who have been exceptional in their support of energy efficiency.

Congratulations to all this year’s nominees:

  • Brad Casemier – Owens Corning
  • Tahseena Kahn – Energy Managers, Inc.
  • Rob Kelter – Environmental Law & Policy Center
  • Rick Sites- Ohio Hospital Association
  • Smart Utility Systems
  • Janet Streff – Minnesota Dept. of Commerce Office of Energy
  • Craig Sieben – Sieben Energy Associates

We’ll be announcing the winner of this award at the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner and Gala during the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, February 25th at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Help us honor all the IEA nominees by purchasing your tickets here.



Illinois: New Year, New Energy Code

MEEA Unplugged Blog - January 14, 2016 - 9:01am

Credit: Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons

You may not have noticed, but on January 1, 2016, the 2015 Illinois Energy Conservation Code became law, based on the approval from the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules at the December hearing. This updated code is an amended version of the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) (the latest national model code) and provides minimum energy standards for all new residential and commercial buildings. The Illinois Capital Development Board, in conjunction with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, updates the code every three years, as Illinois is one of the states in the Midwest with a legislative requirement to update their energy code to the latest national model code, within a year of its release. The previous version of the Illinois Energy Conservation Code was based on the 2012 IECC and was adopted on January 11, 2013.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s great that the State of Illinois has an updated Building Energy Code, but what does it mean for building efficiency and what changes were made?”

Efficiency Improvements

When comparing 2015 to the 2012 Illinois Energy Conservation Code, there were minimal efficiency improvements to the Residential Section (Chapter 11 in IECC) and moderate efficiency improvements to the Commercial Section (Chapter 5 in IECC/ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2013) when compared to the improvements in efficiency in the 2013 update. Although we do not know the exact efficiency improvement to the residential section of the Illinois Code (because Illinois is implementing an amended version of the 2015 IECC), according to the Department of Energy (DOE) final determinations, the Residential Section of the unamended 2015 IECC is approximately 1% more efficient (site energy savings) than the 2012 IECC.

The Commercial section in the Illinois Code is roughly equivalent to the national model code, so, according to the DOE final determinations, the Commercial Section is approximately 7.6% more efficient than the previous national model code.

The improvement in efficiency for all new buildings will result in reduced energy use and lower costs for the tenant or homeowner.

Changes from 2012 IECCResidential Section

The residential section of the 2015 Illinois Energy Conservation Code experienced relatively few changes when compared to the 2012 version, but as with any update, there are minor improvements which make it easier to read and use. The two major changes made to the residential section of the code are:

  1. New Compliance Option – The Energy Rating Index (ERI) has been added to the code as an alternative performance compliance option for builders to meet the code requirements. The ERI is based on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is a zero energy home and 100 is a home based on the 2006 IECC. In order to comply with the code, a home must, at a minimum, achieve an ERI score of 55, the mandatory code requirements, and the 2009 IECC insulation and fenestration requirements.
  2. Basement Insulation Option – In the basement, residential builders now have the option to install either (1) R-10 continuous or R-13 cavity (10/13) ten feet below grade, or six inches above the floor, or (2) install R-15 continuous or R-19 cavity (15/19)  a minimum of four feet below grade.
Commercial Section – ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2013

As indicated by the improvement in efficiency, there are significant changes to the Commercial Section of the 2015 Illinois Energy Conservation Code when compared to the 2012 version. Although there is not enough time (or space) to discuss all the 110 changes in detail, DOE identified eight major changes which positively impact energy use. In general, these improvements require a more efficient building envelope, increased efficiency requirements on mechanical equipment, and improved lighting, daylighting and controls. A description of all changes can be found in the DOE Standard 90.1-2013 Determination of Energy Savings: Qualitative Analysis.

The eight major changes that contribute to the improved efficiency of a building are below:

  1. Addendum 90.1-2010bb – This change requires increased insulation values for opaque wall assemblies in most climate zones. More efficient windows are also required.
  2. Addendum 90.1-2010m – This change adds lighting control requirements for interior and exterior lighting alterations.
  3. Addendum 90.1-2010u – This change now requires a minimum efficiency requirement for all fans. Each fan must now have a “Fan Efficiency Grade (FEG)” of 67 or higher.
  4. Addendum 90.1-2010aq – This change expands the requirements for fan speed control to other applications and requires improved economizer efficiency.
  5. Addendum 90.1-2010am – This change requires boilers comply with a specified turndown ratio to reduce energy use.
  6. Addendum 90.1-2010bq – This change adds new efficiency requirements for commercial refrigeration. These requirements apply to walk-in coolers and freezers, refrigerated display cases, condensers and compressor systems.
  7. Addendum 90.1-2010by – This change requires lighting controls be placed in additional spaces and reduces the light sensor timer.
  8. Addendum 90.1-2010co – This change requires a decrease of lighting power density (LPD) in most building types.

For additional information about the 2015 Illinois Energy Conservation Code, please contact Ian Blanding, Building Policy Associate at MEEA.

12th Annual Inspiring Efficiency Awards – Education

MEEA Unplugged Blog - January 11, 2016 - 9:00am

The Inspiring Efficiency through Education Award will be presented to the organization that has developed and implemented a campaign, program, or strategy to increase knowledge and action on energy efficiency. Applicants should describe how their campaign, program or strategy is an example for the region.

Thank you to all of this year’s Education category applicants:

  • Alliant Energy Advisor
  • ComEd Power of Retirement Campaign
  • Consumers Energy Industrial Energy Management Program
  • Crown Battery Manufacturing
  • Minnesota Energy Resources Engage Direct
  • Nicor Gas Marketing & Outreach Center
  • Columbia Gas of Ohio – Don’t Lose Your Cool
  • Lincoln Electric System — Energy Detective
  • Columbia Water & Light Marketing Contest
  • NTC Corporate Trickle Up! Program
  • USGBC West Michigan Chapter Battle of the Buildings
  • Veritatis Advisors
  • We Energies Education and Awareness Program
  • Xcel Energy — Find Efficiency Everywhere
  • Xcel Energy – This is How

This year, MEEA will be announcing the winner of the Inspiring Efficiency through Education Award in advance in late January, so check back soon!  Then join us in honoring all the nominees at the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner and Gala during the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, February 25th at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Purchase your tickets here.

12th Annual Inspiring Efficiency Awards – Impact

MEEA Unplugged Blog - January 6, 2016 - 9:00am

The Inspiring Efficiency Impact Award is presented to the organization that has made a significant contribution to market transformation either through the implementation of a specific program or through a policy change. The applicant will need to clearly demonstrate the measurable and significant impact that the program or policy has had on reducing energy consumption, altering public behaviors/practices, and/or increasing the market penetration of energy-efficient products and technologies in the Midwest. This award covers the residential, commercial, institutional, agricultural and industrial sectors.

Thanks to all this year’s applicants in the Impact category:

  •  Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Programs
  • City of Urbana Energy Star Challenge
  • ComEd BILD Program
  • ComEd Small Business Energy Savings (SBES) Program
  • Consumers Energy Agriculture Program
  • DTE New Construction and Major Renovations Projects
  • DTE Veterans Health Administration Partnership
  • Focus on Energy
  • Focus on Energy Large Energy Users Program
  • Kansas City Power & Light Clean Charge Network
  • Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Public Sector Energy Efficiency Program
  • MidAmerican Energy Industrial Partners Program
  • NTC Corporate Trickle Up! Program
  • Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas Natural Gas Savings Programs – Commercial and Industrial Program
  • Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas Government Affairs Team
  • Super Savers

This year, MEEA will be announcing the winner of the Inspiring Efficiency Impact Award in advance. The winner will be revealed in late January, so check back soon!  Then join us in honoring all the nominees at the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner and Gala during the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, February 25th at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Purchase your tickets here.

12th Annual Inspiring Efficiency Awards – Innovation

MEEA Unplugged Blog - December 29, 2015 - 9:00am

The Inspiring Efficiency through Innovation Award is presented to the nominee that has developed and implemented a new and innovative program or policy in the Midwest. While the concept of the program or policy may have been implemented elsewhere, the applicant will need to clearly detail why the program or policy and its impact is unique to the region and new to the marketplace.

Thanks to all this year’s applicants in the Innovation category:

  •  AEP Ohio Bid4Efficiency Program
  • Ameren Illinois Home Efficiency Standard & Income Qualified Programs
  • Ameren Illinois Online Lighting Tool
  • ComEd Energy Efficiency Team & the Environmental Law and Policy Center – Million Thermostats
  • ComED Retro-Commissioning Building Tune-Up Program
  • ComED Very Large Customer Outreach
  • Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Public Sector Energy Efficiency Program
  • NTC Corporate Trickle Up! Program
  • Solutions for Energy Efficient Logistics (SEEL) Business Energy Consultation

This year, MEEA will be announcing the winner of the Inspiring Efficiency through Innovation Award in advance. The winner will be revealed in late January, so check back soon!  Then join us in honoring all the nominees at the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner and Gala during the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, February 25th at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Purchase your tickets here.

Midwest Governments Lead the Way in Georgetown University Energy Prize

MEEA Unplugged Blog - December 23, 2015 - 9:10am

The Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP), currently in its second round, includes a total of 50 cities and counties competing to “change the way America uses energy.” Each city or county has already developed a long-term energy efficiency plan. Now they are implementing their plan’s initial effectiveness/sustainability over a two-year period. The competition provides a unique platform bringing together residents, government leaders and utilities into competing communities – united in the goal of improving their energy efficiency.

Each community entered into the competition is required to report quarterly results, and entrants will need to balance CO2e and financial savings in order to win the $5,000,000 prize.

Scores are posted on the public dashboard and are based on the Georgetown University Energy Prize’s “Overall Energy Score,” (OES) which calculates each community’s reduction in overall energy use, combined with a set of other factors. Recently, the data from second quarter of 2015 was posted.

Summary of the Current Data

The top 20 energy savers from Q1 and Q2 include four Midwest cities!

  • Leading the Midwest is Holland, MI which ranks nationally at #4 with an overall energy score of -20 (negative equates to savings). As you might expect with a #4 ranking, Holland has received some publicity.
  • Right behind Holland is Fargo, ND which is ranked #5 with an overall energy Score of -14
  • Columbia, MO is currently tied with Dubuque, IA – both with an Overall Energy Score of -8

Urbana, IL and Oberlin, OH complete the governmental organizations which have reduced their overall score of city wide energy use (reporting scores of -2 and -1 respectively). Other Midwest jurisdictions that have entered the competition include: Madison, WI;  Duluth, MN; Houghton County, MI; Farmington Hills and Farmington, MI; Athens County, OH; Monroe County, IN; and Bates County, MO.

Statistical Considerations

As with typical building energy benchmarking tools, the OES adjusts for population, weather, as well as the energy used in producing and distributing the energy. The dashboard presents the aggregated electric and natural gas energy consumption for each entity. GUEP notes that the initial results naturally hold certain seasonal advantages and disadvantages for communities in different parts of country, given the current data includes only January through June of 2015. When comparing energy consumption across the country, these seasonal variations will ultimately even-out (this is called weather normalizing).

The full competition lasts 48 months to include 24 months of baseline data and 24 months of measured competition data. Check back in the spring of 2016 for the adjusted numbers.

Congratulations to all the participating cities and counties!


12th Annual Inspiring Efficiency Awards – Marketing

MEEA Unplugged Blog - December 21, 2015 - 9:05am

The Inspiring Efficiency through Marketing Award is presented to the nominee that has engaged in or supported a marketing campaign, program or strategy to increase the adoption of energy efficient products and/or best practices in the Midwest region.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Marketing category nominees:

  • Alliant Energy Advisor
  • Ameren Illinois Home Efficiency Program
  • ComEd Energy Efficiency Program
  • Consumers Energy Smart Energy Challenge
  • DTE Customer Intelligence
  • DTE Communications Channels
  • Indiana Michigan Power Residential Online Audit & Schools Energy Education Programs
  • NTC Corporate Trickle Up! Program

This year, MEEA will be announcing the winner of the Inspiring Efficiency through Marketing Award in advance. The winner will be revealed in late January, so check back soon!  Then join us in honoring all the nominees at the Inspiring Efficiency Awards Dinner and Gala during the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, February 25th at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Purchase your tickets here.

MEEA Embarks on Intelligent Efficiency Midwest Industry Mapping Exercise

MEEA Unplugged Blog - December 17, 2015 - 9:00am

Over the last year, MEEA launched an initiative aimed at helping members better understand the intelligent efficiency revolution now upon us. This effort, which began as a simple collaborative for meeting and sharing knowledge, revealed that many stakeholders have both a strong interest in learning more about the application of intelligent efficiency concepts and technology, but also reluctance about technical details, new products and vendors, EM&V, and other challenges. MEEA sees this area as an important opportunity to help members identify specific barriers to intelligent efficiency and fully understand the potential for energy savings presented by emerging solutions currently offered in the Midwest.

It’s important to realize that “intelligent efficiency” is a very broad term. Smart manufacturing, commercial building automation systems, home energy management systems and even telecommuting, cloud computing and ridesharing are considered intelligent efficiency.

MEEA’s Role

Many companies and organizations across the country are already playing critical roles in advancing specific applications, and MEEA will serve an important role helping its members better prepare for the changes that are to come. For example, remote auditing and building automation represent significant opportunities for energy efficiency program administrator in the Midwest, but changes will need to be made to the way we traditionally run programs to realize the full potential of these new solutions.

In order to better inform these conversations, MEEA intends to conduct qualitative research on intelligent efficiency in the Midwest, including existing progress, the biggest opportunities and significant barriers which will need to be overcome. This effort will result in a white paper and webinar series in mid-2016 aimed at helping members and other stakeholders get up to speed and take advantage of the solutions that are ready to be adopted.

For more information on this effort, please contact Mark Milby at mmilby@mwalliance.org.

MEEA and Partners Complete Ohio Commercial Midstream Incentive Pilot

MEEA Unplugged Blog - December 15, 2015 - 11:45am

November 2015 marked the final month for an innovative pilot conducted by MEEA in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, AEP Ohio, Dayton Power and Light (DP&L), several Ohio commercial product distributors and other groups. The six-month pilot was designed to test a novel incentive program model aimed at distributors of v-belts, a common piece of equipment used in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) applications. Cogged v-belts (also known as notched v-belts) are about three percent more efficient at power transmission than smooth v-belts and are commonly recommended to replace smooth v-belts in industrial and commercial energy audits.

New Opportunities for V-Belts

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

While the energy efficiency properties of cogged v-belts are widely accepted and documented, smooth v-belts still persist in practice. Moreover, few utility or government efficiency programs target v-belts for efficiency savings. This reflects a broader trend with so-called “midstream” programs, with which utilities have found success promoting efficient lighting products and some retail appliances.

Overall, however, due to a number of challenges with attribution and administration, midstream programs have been limited to a handful of efficient products. One of the goals of this pilot was to test a novel midstream approach with a nontraditional product and discover best practices for utilities seeking to expand their midstream incentive offerings.

Incentivizing Adoption

Working with distributors in Ohio, AEP Ohio and DP&L partnered to offer incentive payments directly to distributors who sold more cogged v-belts than they had during similar times in the past. Incentives were also made available to support training on v-belt energy use and proper installation techniques.

As the pilot just ended, the results are still coming in and MEEA cannot comment extensively on the efficacy of the pilot strategy yet. However, early feedback from distributors has been positive and MEEA is confident valuable lessons can be extrapolated from the program.

Want to Know More?

More information about the pilot process and incentive design can be found in a white paper presented at the 2015 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Industry, titled A Midstream Cogged V-Belt Pilot Program: Concept and Early Challenges.

For more information about this pilot, please contact Mark Milby at mmilby@mwalliance.org.

MEEA Presents at AEA’s 2015 Multifamily Buildings Conference

MEEA Unplugged Blog - November 19, 2015 - 4:26pm

MEEA successfully gave a workshop style presentation on energy data acquisition at the Affordable Energy Association’s 2015 Multifamily Buildings Conference in Brooklyn, NY on October 28-30, 2015. Together with Ellen M. Sargent, Chicago Housing Authority; and Ryan Snow, USGBC National; Steve Kismohr from MEEA brought concepts and related activities on how to engage Building Asset Managers to acquire base building information and manage energy use.

During the workshop, attendees learned some of the concepts behind ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager’s Multi-Family tool, as well as the data necessary to achieve a 1 to 100 score within the tool. Participants were given a sample building with general building characteristics and asked to determine a few data points necessary to receive an ENERGY STAR score. Each person left with a new understanding of how to use the tool and the collection process necessary to obtain the data.

MEEA Program Associate Sage Gerson also presented on three panels at the conference on a range of topics, including the on-bill financing, the Building Operator Certification (BOC) program, and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Her first panel focused on funding multifamily energy efficiency, and included presentations by Matt Golden from Efficiency.org and Cycle7’s Sean Patrick Neill. Sage’s presentation highlighted the growing successes of multifamily energy efficiency on-bill financing in the Midwest.

Sage then presented about the professional development and energy efficiency benefits of the Building Operator Certification program, which MEEA manages in 10 Midwestern states. This presentation was part of a larger panel about opportunities for multifamily building operators, and Sage presented alongside Andrew Brooks and Nick Young from the Association for Energy Affordability and Heather Larson from StopWaste.org, a public agency focusing on waste reduction from Oakland, CA.  One of the audience members was BOC LV I and LV II certified and offered an impromptu testimonial about the program after Sage concluded presenting. Interested in the panel? Sage will be hosting a MEEA programs webinar about the benefits of multifamily operator trainings on November 23, 2015 at 12:00 PM CST. Contact her at sgerson@mwalliance.org for more information.

Sage’s third presentation, along with ACEEE’s Lauren Ross, Jackson Morris from the Natural Resources Defense Council, NASEO’s Sandy Fazeli and Southface’s Alex Trachtenberg about the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, drew the largest crowd and featured a robust question and answer session at the end of the presentations.

The conference was a huge success, there were approximately 400 attendees from across the nation, and many opportunities for stakeholders to network and exchange best practices. For more information visit: http://aea.us.org/. Stay tuned, the Association for Energy Affordability will be posting recordings, photos and blog posts about the conference over the next few weeks.

6th Annual Midwest Energy Data and Building Codes Conference Recap

MEEA Unplugged Blog - November 19, 2015 - 3:37pm

Isaac Elnecave, Senior Policy Manager for MEEA, kicks off the conference

MEEA held its 6th Annual Midwest Energy Data and Building Codes Conference in Minneapolis, MN from November 3 -5, 2015. The event was a success with over 110 professionals from various sectors in the building community in attendance throughout the two and a half day conference. Attendees included professionals from federal, state and local energy offices, federal laboratories, utilities, consulting agencies, construction companies, and code enforcement agencies. Throughout the conference, attendees had an opportunity to learn from energy data and code experts, network and share ideas with colleagues, enjoy Minneapolis establishments and the unseasonably warm weather!

Day 1:  Energy Data Session

Katie Jones Schmitt, from the Center for Energy and Environment, highlights their work with the City of Minneapolis on energy data cleansing and analysis efforts.

The Conference began with presentations focused on the topic of energy data collection and management, as well as building energy benchmarking programs. With nearly 80 attendees, this portion of the conference nearly doubled in size from previous years! As more and more building owners, managers, and organizations understand the benefits of tracking and using energy consumption data for their buildings, MEEA see this trend continuing.

After a brief welcome to Minneapolis by Brendon Slotterback, Sustainability Manager of the City of Minneapolis who was instrumental in passage of the city’s Commercial Building Benchmarking and Transparency ordinance, the day was organized into four panels of varying on topics. The first panel included cities and states that are leading initiatives on energy data collection and use – Leaders in the Midwest. The second included speakers whom have experience in navigating data collection, cleansing, and use of the data for energy savings. After lunch, the third set of panelists described different means to measure and collect data – beyond energy and municipal boundaries – to simultaneously include indoor air quality (IAQ), acoustics, and transportation energy use. The last panel dove into the successes and unique challenges of energy data collection and results within multi-family housing buildings.

At the end of the day one, Steve Kismohr, Senior Technical Manager for MEEA whom facilitated the day, led attendees through a networking and group think exercise to process how all these presentations related to each other. This exercise helped solidify concepts discussed and provided an opportunity for attendees to make suggestions for next year’s event. If you are interested in the full breakdown of presentations and panelists, see the day’s Energy Data Agenda. PDF’s of each presentation will be available shortly.

Day 2: Codes Session 

The second day of the conference initiated the energy building codes portion of the conference. This session had approximately 80 building professionals in attendance to kick things off. To start the day, Isaac Elnecave called on contacts in various states in the Midwest to discuss the current status and energy code progress from each state.

Bruce Selway, Energy Efficiency Education Manager for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, provides a state update for Illinois and highlights the Illinois Energy Conservation Code Training Manuals and recent 2015 IECC adoption process.

After the state update and introductions, the conference began a packed schedule with presenters from around the nation. The first panel started with a technical presentation and demonstration on the NREL Building Energy Optimization (BEopt) Modeling Program. This presentation highlighted the capabilities this free energy modeling system has in assessing the energy use and construction cost of a new residential energy building code.  During the second panel, we heard experiences from professionals involved in the 2015 IECC adoption processes in Illinois and Vermont.  The 2015 Illinois Energy Conservation Code is slated for adoption on January 1, 2016 and Vermont adopted a version of the 2015 IECC – with solar energy provisions in the Energy Rating Index (ERI) compliance section – in December 2014.

Eric Wilson, Engineer, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), demonstrates the NREL Building Energy Optimization (BEopt) Modeling program.

After lunch, Jeremy Williams, Project Manager for the Department of Energy (DOE) and Isaac Elnecave provided an update on the DOE Code Compliance Studies in the third panel of the day. Jeremy spoke about the DOE Code Compliance methodology and preliminary results from states included in the study, and Isaac Elnecave (MEEA) presented MEEA’s findings from the first phase of the Kentucky Code Compliance study.

The fourth panel – on ventilation – brought in experts to talk about the newly adopted ventilation requirements in Minnesota and the results from a ventilation effectiveness study conducted in the Pacific Northwest. To wrap up the day, Chris Mctaggart, Executive Director for the Midwest Home Performance Association (MHPA) discussed the role that the MHPA will have as third party verifiers become more prevalent in code compliance.  Ian Blanding, Building Policy Associate for MEEA, presented his preliminary findings after analyzing the rated features of over 5000 HERS rated homes in Iowa.

Alison Lindburg, Policy Director, Fresh Energy, highlights the important codes compliance work that emerged from the Minnesota Codes Collaborative.

Day 3: Codes Session

The final day of the conference focused on code compliance and opportunities for energy codes and building performance in the future. The first panel – designed around energy code compliance – featured speakers discussing the approach to developing an effective commercial compliance study and effective state energy code compliance collaborative. The second panel of the day highlighted the potential development and benefits of including a Multi-family chapter in the IECC. The last panel of the conference looked ahead to the future of buildings and brought in high performance building experts to discuss construction practices that can achieve significant improvements in building energy performance over simply building a home to the current energy code.  For a full recap of the presentations from day two and three, please review the Codes Session Agenda.

The MEEA Buildings Team celebrating a great conference! From left to right, Ian Blanding (Building Policy Associate), Chris Burgess (Technical Manager for Codes Compliance), Steve Kismohr (Sr. Technical Manager), Isaac Elnecave (Sr. Policy Manager), Kelsey Horton (Sr. Program Associate)


Thank You

In all, the event was a huge success having brought together public, private and non- profit organizations to learn and share ideas about current and future building energy performance. MEEA would like to thank all those who attended and were involved in the 6th Annual energy building codes and benchmarking conference – your work and commitment to building performance throughout the year is what makes this event possible. The planning has already begun for next year’s highly anticipated event, so stay tuned.


Clean Energy Incentive Program Comments Due to the EPA by December 15, 2015

MEEA Unplugged Blog - November 19, 2015 - 2:01pm

By Nikhil Vijaykar, MEEA Senior Policy Associate

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its final Clean Power Plan (CPP) in the Federal Register on October 23, 2015. The Clean Power Plan is aimed at reducing carbon emissions from existing power plants. As a part of the final Clean Power Plan, the EPA provided a Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) to reward early investments in renewable energy (RE) generation as well as demand-side energy efficiency (EE) measures in low-income communities, which generate carbon-free MWh or reduce end-use energy demand in the two years preceding the start of the CPP compliance period (2020-2021).  EPA will make additional “matching” federal credits available to states electing to participate in the CEIP, in order to further incentivize early reductions from RE and EE in low-income communities.

Public Comments on the Clean Energy Incentive Program

Although parties may no longer submit comments on the Emission Guidelines established by the CPP, EPA is accepting comments on the CEIP through December 15, 2015. Interested parties may submit their input using one of the following methods:

EPA Docket Center
Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code: 28221T
Washington, D.C. 20460

Parties submitting comments should identify the Docket ID Number corresponding to the Clean Energy Incentive Program: EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0734. MEEA will be submitting its comments on the CEIP to the EPA, based on its experience with energy efficiency policy and programs in Midwestern states.

EPA is specifically interested in hearing input on the following questions:

What should EPA consider when defining criteria, terms and requirements under the CEIP?

  • What definition(s) of ‘low-income community’ should be required for eligible energy-efficiency (EE) projects?
  • What criteria should be used to define eligible wind and solar projects, as well as eligible EE projects implemented in low-income communities? (e.g., by sector (residential, commercial, etc.) or by geography (where a project takes place and who benefits from it))
  • What should be the evaluation, measurement and & verification (EM&V) requirements for eligible projects; the requirements for M&V reports of quantified megawatt-hour (MWh); and the requirements for verification reports from an independent verifier?
  • How could EPA set criteria for states, tribes and territories for which goals have not yet been established in the final Clean Power Plan’s Emission Guidelines (EGs) to participate in the CEIP?
  • What commencement date is appropriate for a project to qualify as eligible for the CEIP?
  • How should ‘commence construction’ of an eligible wind or solar project and ‘commence operations’ of an eligible low-income EE project be defined?
  • Should CEIP allowances or emission reduction credits (ERCs) be available for projects in jurisdictions without affected entities (e.g. tribal lands and states without EGUs).  If so, how should the CEIP mechanism be designed to address these areas?

What should EPA consider regarding the timing and distribution of allowances under the CEIP?

  • How should the 300 million short ton CO2 emissions-equivalent matching pool be allocated among states participating in the CEIP?
  • How should the 300 million short ton matching pool be split between the two reserves: one for wind/solar, one for low-income EE?
  • When should EPA allocate matching allowances or emission reduction credits (ERCs) to a state, and when should awards from these allocations be made to eligible project providers?
  • How should matching allowances or ERCs that are allocated to a state but not awarded to eligible projects be redistributed among other states with unmet demand for matching allowances or ERCs, and when should this redistribution take place?

What should EPA consider when designing the mechanics of the CEIP?

  • What are the appropriate mechanisms a state (in the case of a state plan) or EPA (in the case of a federal plan) should use to review project submittals and issue early action allowances or ERCs?
  • How should the 300 million short ton CO2 emissions-equivalent matching pool be converted into ERCs, which are based on MWh?
  • What mechanisms should EPA consider for maintaining the stringency of rate-based emission standards during the compliance periods to account for the issuance of early action ERCs for MWh generated or avoided in 2020 and/or 2021?
CEIP Calls with EPA

EPA is hosting four calls prior to the comment deadline in order to gather input from key stakeholders.  This input will help EPA in designing further action specifying the design and implementation details of the CEIP.  During each call, EPA will provide a brief overview of the CEIP and then will invite participants to provide their input. EPA will give participants up to three minutes to present their remarks.

Call 1 was held on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, and focused on input from potential CEIP project providers.


The details of the forthcoming calls are as follows:

Call 2: Focus – Potential CEIP Project Partners. This call will focus on hearing ideas and input from groups that have a general interest in CEIP projects such as environmental justice groups, community groups, local governments, tribes, and environmental non-governmental organizations.

Date: Monday, November 23, 2015
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. EST
Participant Dial-in Number: (877) 290-8017
Conference ID#: 72559715


Call 3: Focus – Potential CEIP Credit Issuers. This call will focus on hearing ideas and input from states and tribes with affected power plants.

Date:  Monday, November 30, 2015
Time: 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. EST
Participant Dial-in Number:  (877) 290-8017
Conference ID#: 72560287


Call 4: Focus – General.  This call will focus on hearing ideas from stakeholders who were unable to attend one of the first three sessions.

Date: Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Time: 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST
Participant Dial-in Number: (877) 290-8017
Conference ID#: 72558409


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