Big Data Startups Can Save Energy Utilities Companies. Here’s How.
By Peter Lougee
There is a problem with the way in which energy consumption is measured. What is it? The way in which we audit energy usage: manually. This method is both inefficient and time consuming, and big data startups think they have a better way.
The standard way for energy companies to determine energy usage in buildings within their portfolio is the Energy Use Index. However, this Index not not only requires manual audits, it also “does not correlate to the 25 percent of buildings that represent 75 percent of the energy efficiency savings,” EnergyEfficiencyMarkets.com reports.
A possible solution is one offered by Retroficiency, a startup that offers a software platform to identify “millions of data points” simultaneously to provide a big picture view for utility companies. To gain a similar level of accuracy and information, Retroficiency estimates that it would take every auditor in the United States 22 years and cost $50 billion.
Retroficiency’s “virtual energy assessment” offered by its software platform can quickly assess buildings and “create energy models on the fly,” EnergyEfficiencyMarkets.com further writes. What’s more is that Retroficiency’s system takes mere minutes to complete a model and doesn’t require a single auditor to step foot on the property being evaluated. Although such big data offerings are only slowly being adopted by utility companies and building owners, Retroficiency has evaluated over 300 million square feet of building space and saved 1.5 billion kWh of energy since 2011.
Utility executives are beginning to take note. Gigaom reports that the consulting firm Accenture has released the findings of a study in which Utility executives admit that “disruptions and changes” are occurring within the industry – the cause being the big data solutions offered by startups. According to the study, nearly 60 percent of utility companies indicated that building analytic solutions into the power grid was a priority in the years ahead. This would correspond to savings in the range of $40 to $70 per electric meter, per year.
With monetary savings on the table, the utility market is open to disruption by startups offering analytical solutions to an industry still relying on manual inspections. In addition states and cities are increasingly passing regulations that mandate improved building energy efficiency in response to the possibilities of big data. This means that the market for energy analytics will only grow larger.