- Consolidated Edison told New York regulators in a December report that it will be researching changes to the design of an energy efficiency program for commercial buildings after participation dwindled over the course of a year in its pilot.
- The utility launched a Building Energy Performance (BEP) pilot program in 2018 and signed up 23 building operators in New York City, 19 of which began the first of five efficiency campaigns. By the final push, participation declined to four operators, ultimately keeping the utility from making any energy efficiency conclusions.
- The utility found that maintaining engagement from building operators over time is a difficult proposition, and tenant control of building equipment, including lighting and HVAC systems, posed "an unexpected barrier."
Con Edison isn't giving up on building efficiency, but officials say they will take a closer look at how the BEP program is run in order to quantify and maximize savings.
"We continue to believe New York City’s enormous stock of commercial office buildings offers additional potential for reduced usage, customer savings, and environmental benefits," a Con Edison spokesman told Utility Dive in an email.
Amid a nationwide push to reduce building energy use and electrify end uses, Con Edison's analysis of the BEP pilot highlights hurdles for utility-led energy efficiency initiatives.
"Tenant control of building equipment was an unexpected barrier," the utility told regulators. "Tenants control more of some buildings’ equipment than expected."
Con Edison also found that "many building operators are (or think they are) already implementing efficient [operations and maintenance] practices."
The BEP pilot was different from equipment rebate programs Con Edison offers, and instead focused on specific behavioral and operational activity. The primary goal was to determine whether the utility could achieve low-cost energy savings for the buildings, and initially targeted energy savings of 4% at a lower cost per kWh than other programs.
Efficiency campaign focuses included: outside air optimization, automation, lighting controls, temperature scheduling, and shoulder-season practices that included reviews of condenser water temperature controls and chilled water temperature setpoints and controls.
Ultimately, Con Edison told regulators that based on the participant engagement in the program's first year, the utility and consulting partner EMI Consulting "decided that a full evaluation was premature and that research to support changes to program design would be more valuable."
"We are reviewing what we learned from the Building Energy Performance program about engaging customers and the ability to evaluate program savings before we reach out for participants again," the Con Edison representative said.
Recent research suggests improved efficiency of commercial buildings can yield significant savings, even without new equipment.
In 2017, The U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory concluded control technology already installed in most large commercial buildings could cut their annual energy consumption by an average of 29%.
More effective use of efficiency measures in commercial buildings would result in between 4 to 5 quadrillion British thermal units in national energy savings — or about 4% to 5% of the energy consumed nationwide, according to the national lab's research.