How to Increase Customer Outreach and Engagement with Benchmarking Data

April 4, 2018 | Erin Beddingfield

This blog is the fourth in an on-going series exploring the findings of IMT’s Putting Data to Work project, a three-year effort to explore how cities and their efficiency partners can better deploy building performance data to drive action on energy efficiency in buildings in their jurisdictions. For more information, visit imt.org/PuttingDatatoWork. In this blog, we look at how efficiency program administrators and providers can use building performance data gathered through city policies to increase and improve customer engagement.

Getting energy efficiency to resonate as a priority to decision makers in buildings remains a primary market barrier to a more widespread market of high-performance buildings. Raising awareness of how buildings are performing is a key first step. Addressing this, cities are increasingly gathering and publishing key information about building performance, and are beginning to test ways to communicate this data to the market. The key outcome in the effective communication of this information is in helping building decision makers to identify and undertake actionable measures that result in energy retrofits and increased efficiency.

The Putting Data to Work toolkit, recently released by IMT, draws from three years of work with New York City and the District of Columbia, as well as local groups NYCEEC and the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU). The project, partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, focuses on understanding how cities and their partners can better analyze and use benchmarking performance data in strategic outreach and engagement, evidence-based policymaking, partnerships, and energy efficiency project identification and deployment.

Among the ways efficiency program implementers can use data to improve customer outreach and engagement are:

  • City-sponsored maps of data. Efficiency implementers can build off of benchmarking data visualization platforms that are published by many cities, and use these tools for an initial screen of buildings with the potential for energy savings. By identifying buildings that perform relatively poorly when compared with their peers, efficiency implementers can cross-reference their own customer data to reach out to those building decision makers with potential efficiency project offerings and incentives. More detail on data visualizations is available in Chapter 1 of the comprehensive Putting Data to Work summary report.
  • More-informed outreach strategies. As part of Putting Data to Work, the DCSEU developed an outreach script and piloted an outreach strategy to use the District’s benchmarking data to enhance customer engagement and increase efficiency project uptake from engagements. They found whole-building benchmarking data to be useful in analyzing trends, engaging customers, and in providing additional insight when layered on top of existing internal datasets. For additional detail on their efforts, check out this detailed case study.
  • Tools to increase customer interest. Third-party offerings such as NYCEEC’s efficienSEE™ tool offer yet another example of a potential use of benchmarking data for efficiency program implementers. The tool gives users an estimate of the energy and costs savings they could realize if they achieve certain thresholds of performance relative to their peers, strengthening the business case to undertake retrofit projects. For additional information about NYCEEC’s efficienSEE™ effort, read the full case study and check out the tool itself.

Many of these efforts are enhanced by tools including the U.S. DOE’s Standard Energy Efficiency Data (SEED) Platform and Building Energy Data Exchange Specification, which allow for centralized database management and a standardized terminology, respectively. Cities including the District maintain a SEED account to store and maintain the benchmarking dataset, and trusted partners like the DCSEU are able to connect to that account via application programming interface (API) and pull down the most current and accurate data directly into their internal systems from the District’s account. The more that high-quality data are managed in a centralized and accessible way, the easier it is for market actors to take advantage of the information being provided.

The Putting Data to Work project is an ongoing effort, and a two-way conversation. We’d love to hear from you about the ways you’re using building energy performance data to move energy efficiency forward in your jurisdiction. For additional information, check out the full toolkit of resources, or reach out to me directly at erin@imt.org.

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Manager, Data Strategy and Application

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