This post was originally published on FirstFuel’s website. FirstFuel is now Uplight.
With data from over six million business customer meters in our database, our building engineering team is continuously analyzing and comparing performance on a building by building basis. Recently, they set out to see if they could layer any insight into the age-old East vs. West energy efficiency debate.
As a Massachusetts-based company, we pay particular attention to how we compare to our Californian counterparts. We’re proud that, over the past several years, our home state has received top marks for its energy efficiency polices and programs. In fact, in 2017, Massachusetts was ranked number one in energy efficiency by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) for the seventh consecutive year. Meanwhile, on the other coast, California was ranked #2.
The ACEEE rankings take a variety of factors into account, including building codes, utility incentives, state energy initiatives, transportation, conservation goals, and policies, and combined heat and power policies. That’s all good stuff, but our team wanted to go one step further – analyzing actual building performance to see whether Massachusetts’ buildings really are more efficient than California’s. Read on to learn about the approach we took and the (surprising!) results our analysis yielded.
Running for Offices
Different building types, such as warehouses, restaurants, offices, or retail, consume energy differently based on the nature of the building activity. So, to accurately compare energy use between buildings, it’s best to compare apples with apples. Because they are ubiquitous and operated uniformly from state to state, we decided to analyze the performance of office buildings.
On the apples with apples front, we also needed to define a target building size to ensure a fair comparison. We chose to use the standard definition of a medium to large office building – ranging from 50,000 to 500,000 gross square feet.
Identifying the Bulls Eye
We used building type and size to search through thousands of buildings to find 260 California buildings and 46 Massachusetts buildings that were ripe for comparison. Since California has over five times the general population and five times the number of commercial buildings than Massachusetts, it’s within reason that there were about 5x more buildings in the California sample.
What about the weather?
Of course, the climates in Massachusetts and California are vastly different, so when comparing the energy performance of buildings between these states, we needed to weed out the weather effects. Our Weather Model, which starts with 12 months of 15-minute interval data from each building’s main electric meter, analyzes daily consumption patterns and compares these to the concurrent local weather conditions. The result? A model-based, hour-by-hour separation of weather and non-weather-related energy consumption.
Much to our surprise (and dismay!) our analysis suggests that, on a building by building basis, California buildings are actually more efficient than Massachusetts buildings. In California buildings, the average non-weather consumption was 11 kWh per square foot. In Massachusetts, it was 16kWh per square foot – a difference of +30%.
Our findings don’t necessarily contradict the ACEEE study, which accounted for other factors like state-sponsored policies and goals. Industry studies like these are always helpful in establishing a baseline and setting an initial plan of action.
But, analytics on a building by building basis deliver a much deeper insight. Our platform analyzes hundreds of thousands of buildings instantly and identifies unique characteristics across entire segments and categories. The output? The personalized building by building insights utilities need to create one-to-one engagement strategies, at scale.