How Utilities are Moving to Virtual Assessment and VerificationPosted to Willdan
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- Apr 14, 2020 3:00 pm GMTApr 13, 2020 9:20 pm GMT
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Many DSM programs require physical site visits to conduct building assessments, including commercial new construction verification, energy audits, and recommissioning services. Mandates put in place as the result of COVID-19 have required building closures in most areas, thus temporarily suspending physical site visits. While this restriction presents obvious challenges when trying to meet regulatory requirements and savings goals, it also provides opportunities to be flexible and respond quickly with alternate solutions. So how are utilities continuing to ensure savings for their programs under these circumstances?
For programs where energy efficiency measures have been identified and require on-site visits to verify implementation, such as for commercial new construction, virtual verification can be performed as an interim solution. This process includes temporary suspension of the requirement for physical site visits, followed by notification of the project teams that physical site visits will be replaced by virtual verification. In this communication, it is important to emphasize the importance of receiving complete building documentation from the project team. Typically, the necessary documentation includes as-built drawings and equipment submittals; but if as-built drawings are not available, photo documentation will also be required. If a measure is not supported by the required documentation, follow-up with the project team is needed to confirm the measure has been installed. Of course, there will be exceptional cases for some measures and projects, which then need to be reviewed by the utility’s program team and addressed individually in order to document outcomes. Xcel Energy’s Minnesota Energy Design Assistance program, an early adopter of this process, has already begun offering its participants the option to conduct the measurement and verification (M&V) process for new construction projects virtually, to help customers seamlessly continue their participation in the program.
For programs that typically require on-site visits from the beginning, such as audit and recommissioning programs, virtual energy audits are a reliable, cost-effectiveness alternative. Through remote collection of the necessary information, this approach uses state-of-the-art software to provide guidance to building owners, building operators and trade allies about how to take control of energy consumption as well as drive down operational costs. The process entails creating scenarios that meet goals and demonstrating the effect of each scenario on savings, costs and incentives—not just for lighting, but also HVAC systems and controls, building envelope and more. After the analysis is complete and decisions are made, assistance is provided to the customer to apply for incentives. Typically, virtual energy assessments are an ideal service for medium and large existing facilities, although smaller existing facilities where a small business direct install program is not available would also benefit. For now, while installation/construction may be limited, building owners of any size can plan for future building upgrades through virtual analysis.
How are you incorporating new approaches to address these challenges? Share your thoughts and strategies so we can all learn and create best practices.