Trend In Utility Incentive Programs Is Toward More Monitoring, Proof Of Performance

By Loren Snyder  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Facility Managers Need To Understand Changing Market To Maximize Utility Incentives and RebatesPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Utility Incentive Programs Will Require Stricter Monitoring, Offer Greater Benefits

Phil Welker, PECI's executive director, says that recent trends in incentive programs can be dependent upon industry. So, for example, larger commercial buildings might reap the most reward from the utility industry's increased focus on customized energy analysis. And Welker also says that during the last several years, he's seen an uptick in custom rebates and program requirements with more complexity, including post-installation monitoring and proof-of-performance clauses. Other kinds of offerings — like solar or demand response — may also be included.

Part of that change might be explained by policy shifts, including integrated resource planning, in which utilities in some states are required to plan for the long-term needs of their customers by considering and assessing a broad range of resource options, including energy efficiency resources.

"Utilities in many states are required to regularly submit a demand-side management plan to their state regulator," says Barbose, "proposing a specific portfolio of programs that meet cost-effectiveness guidelines and other policy objectives, typically on a one- to three-year cycle."

Perhaps these planning changes reflect a belief Welker has that the landscape will be less about narrowly targeted energy efficiency goals in the future.

"Increasingly we will see location-specific need," he says, "so demand-response questions will need to be answered. That means it's less about energy-efficiency and more about 'where is electricity needed and when?'"

Change in Focus

Both Flanagan and Welker note that utilities will have to become increasingly customer-centric.

"All utilities are having to deal with customers in more sophisticated ways," Welker says.

Flanagan says that utilities are now incentivized to provide customer satisfaction in ways that they haven't historically.

Welker's seeing the shift with increased use of smart meters, more emphasis on social media, making energy data and use information coherent to the end user, and more consideration of re- and retro-commissioning.

This portends a new way of thinking for facility managers, says Welker. It's no longer one piece of energy-efficient equipment at a time, but instead a shift that requires a holistic and often highly customized view of how an organization or campus can best maximize its energy efficiency requirements.

One trend Flanagan sees is a more consideration of what he calls "deeper energy retrofits." That means that, instead of a one-size-fits-all audit, end users frequently require an audit of their facility and a review of energy use for a tailored program that best suits the facility manager's needs.

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  posted on 2/6/2014   Article Use Policy

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