White House Unites Uncommon Partners to Liberate Market-Driving Data

March 2, 2016 | Julie Hughes

During the early part of an election year, thoughts of the “White House” often conjure images of aspiring presidential candidates catapulting insults at one another, and talking heads narrating the scene.  At times like these, it’s easy to think that level-headed executive leadership is the relic of a bygone era. Not so.

IMT was recently invited to a White House roundtable where we saw firsthand the culmination of several government-led initiatives that have successfully brought unlikely partners together around the important topic of energy efficiency. The White House and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), over the past few years, have convened utilities, city government officials, and other interested parties to grapple with competing energy efficiency priorities—and they have developed some pretty stellar solutions.

The beauty of these federal initiatives is not just in the pressing energy issues that they tackle but also in the collaborative, cross-sector way in which they are structured.  They represent federal leadership at its best, leveraging its technical expertise and convening power to unite parties that don’t naturally connect—local governments, utilities, software developers, energy auditors, and other market actors—and developing energy efficiency solutions informed by those who will actually use them.  As it stands, the energy efficiency field is benefiting from federal leadership that is developing market-relevant initiatives and overcoming market failures through industry collaboration.

The Energy Data Accelerator, in which IMT proudly participated, officially wrapped up a two year effort in December. Despite the program’s official sunset, the Accelerator has built momentum and facilitated relationships among the many actors mentioned above that will continue to improve access to and sharing of energy data. At the event, 18 utilities, serving more than 2.6 million commercial customers announced that they will provide whole-building energy data access to building owners by 2017 to ease efforts to benchmark energy usage—a major benefit to building owners in areas where energy benchmarking and transparency laws are present. 

In those areas, the significant increase in building data being collected requires a flexible, cost-effective solution for jurisdictions to manage, organize, and share this information. In anticipation of this market need, DOE created the Standard Energy Efficiency Data (SEED) PlatformTM , an open-source software application that drives down the cost for local governments to build a database that supports the implementation of building energy efficiency policies. The Platform also creates a technical infrastructure where third-party software developers can build their own custom add-ons or link to their existing products. DOE, in partnership with early municipal users and the SEED support team (including IMT) has now expanded this partnership to 12 jurisdictions through the recently launched SEED Platform Collaborative—many of these jurisdictions are also participating in the City Energy Project, a joint initiative of IMT and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Making building energy data organized, searchable, and actionable creates market value by putting information in the hands of those who will create demand for more energy efficiency in buildings. For example, existing buildings can be targeted for energy retrofits based on certain characteristics that may indicate high energy savings potential, such as unusually high energy consumption or the type of heating fuel that the building uses. To support the first step in that process, DOE developed the Building Energy Asset Score, a national standardized tool for assessing the physical and structural energy efficiency of commercial and multifamily residential buildings, which has now completed 825 assessments totaling more than 80 million square feet. The free audit solution allows governments, researchers, and retrofit firms to assess a market’s opportunity for investment and evaluate the success of completed energy conservation measures in a consistent and efficient manner.

IMT was proud to follow strong federal leadership through participation in these programs, and we are delighted to see that the great work started here will continue gaining momentum and accelerating energy efficiency our country’s building stock. We look forward to contributing to this work as it continues to shape a cleaner energy future for us all.

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Managing Director, Programs

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