District staff have been working together to cut back on energy use, but how do we know if it is helping? How much have we saved? Now that we are a little ways into this current program of conservation, we are able to look back and see some answers. Now, many of you are familiar with me walking around auditing classrooms, but much of my time is spent back at my desk working with a complex database called EnergyCAP. (Energy Cost Avoidance Program). Figuring out how much we are saving with our conservation efforts turns out to be a complicated undertaking. First off let me say that the EnergyCAP database program meets a standard written by the U.S. Department of Energy called the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (U.S. DOE Document #DOE/GO-102002-1554). To quote: "The International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (MVP) provides an overview of current best practice techniques available for verifying results of energy efficiency, water efficiency, and renewable energy projects. It may also be used by facility operators to assess and improve facility performance. Energy conservation measures . . . covered herein include fuel saving measures, water efficiency measures, load shifting and energy reductions through installation or retrofit of equipment, and/or modification of operating procedures."
Basically, savings is determined by multiplying the difference between the expected and the actual energy usage by the current energy unit cost. The expected usage is based on a full year's worth of bills we received before this energy conservation program began. So, if we used 1000 kWh last year for electricity at one school, then we would expect to use 1000 kWh this year. If we only use 800 kWh, then we have saved 200 kWh, which we then multiply by our current unit cost (the per kWh rate we pay to PG&E) to determine how much money we avoided spending.
But hold on a minute! What if that school in question is under construction and added a wing? What if it was a colder winter or hotter summer? What if the heating equipment was upgraded or air conditioning added? What if the school added solar panels? What if the school was used for summer school one year but not the next? Well, that's where this International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol comes into play and the power of the database is realized. With the help of the Energy Education data specialists, I factor in all the possible items which influence energy use, including weather, square foot and equipment changes, and solar panels. So, we are basically talking about making a very sophisticated estimate that attempts to take every possible variable into account.