Unprecedented Collaboration Helps California Rely on Efficiency

I’m excited to report that the newly formed California Technical Forum has begun working to facilitate bigger and better energy efficiency programs by developing accurate and consistent savings estimates that can be used across the Golden State.

This is extremely important because savings estimates provide the foundation for the state’s more than $1 billion annual investment in energy efficiency. Effective programs require that the savings estimates are accurate, reliable, and timely.

Last week’s meeting was the culmination of an intensive year of planning and preparation for the launch of this new initiative, which was collaborative from the start. A wide range of stakeholders contributed time, resources, and ideas to getting it off the ground.  

A Proven Approach  

The Technical Forum is modeled on the Regional Technical Forum, a collaborative body with a decade-long record of success in the Pacific Northwest. Like the Regional Technical Forum, it adopts the well-established use of peer review to ensure accurate and reliable energy-savings values. Comprised of a technical jury of up to 30 independent technical experts, the Technical Forum will collaboratively develop savings estimates for efficiency measures using the best available data and analytical techniques.

This may sound wonky, but what it means is that some of the top experts in our state - and across the country - have agreed to work together, so that we can rely with confidence on our investments in energy efficiency to help meet our energy and climate goals.

The Members  

The Forum members were recruited through a Request for Qualifications that identified the technical skills and expertise that are needed. Together, the 29 newly appointed members bring to California over 400 years of combined energy efficiency experience and great enthusiasm for improving the process by which energy efficiency savings estimates are developed.

These new members are energy efficiency professionals – including engineers, economists, and social scientists – with experience across all customer classes, and expertise in a wide range of efficiency measures, from lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) to innovative behavioral services and other emerging approaches. The members are experts in sophisticated simulation modeling, experimental design, economics, statistics, program implementation, and evaluation. The expertise amassed here will be invaluable in providing insightful and thorough review of current data analytical tools. 

Overall, these inaugural members are broadly representative of California’s efficiency community. Members come from academia, local government, program implementers – both small and large – evaluation consultants, and national labs. A small number work for California utilities, allowing the group to also benefit from the insights of both public and private utilities. Importantly, fully one-third of the newly appointed members are based in other states and regions, which will help to promote cross-fertilization and will make sure California benefits from new data, methods, and approaches being developed elsewhere.

Getting Down to Work

Initially, the Technical Forum will focus on energy efficiency measures new to the California market. At last week’s initial meeting, members reviewed five abstracts that outline new energy efficiency measures not currently included in utility offerings in California. They plan to review another four new measure abstracts at the second meeting in July. Based on feedback from forum members, these abstracts will form the basis for fully detailed descriptions and estimates of savings from the new measures. The Forum then will provide a peer review of the analysis and a recommended savings estimate. As a result of this work, California energy efficiency administrators will soon have a wider variety of innovative programs with reliable savings estimates to offer their customers. 

One of the promising new measures is a program designed to increase the efficiency of TV systems statewide. Under this program, residential customers would receive discounted ENERGY STAR ™ Set-top Boxes through their cable and satellite service providers. A conservative estimate of the savings potential of more energy efficient Set-top Boxes in California was more than 17,000 megawatt hours per year. That’s comparable to removing the demand of more than 2500 households from the state’s electric grid, and could save the state’s utility customers millions of dollars each year.

Next Steps  

Over the coming year, the Forum members will be working hard to develop accurate and credible savings estimates at their monthly meetings. The California Technical Forum provides a great opportunity for the efficiency community to accelerate its efforts and, as one of its founders, I look forward to reporting back soon on continued progress.