Utilities have a vested interest in working with homeowners and businesses to accurately estimate and control energy costs. It is not only good for load management goals, it is also good for the local economy. A new report from Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and tools being developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) can help utilities and cities move toward a more efficient building stock.
Changing real estate conversation
According to the online real estate platform Redfin, energy bills can add as much as 40 percent to annual housing costs in some parts of the country. An MPG for Homes: Driving Visible Value for Home Energy Performance in Real Estate, the RMI report, makes the argument for incorporating energy use data into the total cost of homeownership calculations.
The authors emphasize, however, that making home energy use data more accessible is part of a greater vision. True market transformation will require a change in both homebuyer behavior and policies and approaches across several interconnected industries. The real estate, finance, home improvement and—yes—utility industry would all play a part and could all benefit in the long run from improving home performance metrics and making the data more transparent and accessible to homeowners.
RMI notes that the “green real estate” movement is already starting to catch on with online real estate portals featuring home energy scores on property listings. Partnerships between the Zillow Group and UtilityScore, Estately and Clearly Energy and Redfin and Tendril are aiming to make home energy scores a bigger consideration in buying decisions.
Recent home purchases drove 26 percent of home renovations in 2015, and preparation for resale led to 13 percent of renovations, according to Houzz and Home: Overview of Renovation. Moreover, 67 percent of study respondents cited improving energy efficiency as an important reason for making a renovation. Clearly, renovation projects offer utilities an opportunity to promote energy-efficiency measures and programs to a receptive audience. Establishing relationships with housing professionals in the community could pay off for utility program managers in a big way.
Tools analyze home, infrastructure projects
Once you connect with customers who are interested in making energy-efficiency improvements, the next challenge is determining what upgrades will save them the most money and energy. The ResStock analysis tool from NREL provides detailed information on the technical and economic potential of residential energy-efficiency improvements and packages for 48 U.S. states.
By combining large data sources and statistical sampling with detailed building simulations, the program achieves unprecedented accuracy in modeling the diversity of the single-family housing stock. The ResStock software leverages DOE’s open-source building energy modeling platforms OpenStudio® and EnergyPlus™ so you won’t need a supercomputer to run the program. Contact NREL to find out more.
On a larger scale, NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility is working on a demonstration project that is developing a buildings and district energy modeling tool, URBANopt. The demonstration integrates URBANopt with grid modeling software, OpenDSS, to analyze the projected dynamic energy consumption of a planned 382-acre mixed-use development. The Denver, Colorado, site includes corporate office space, retail space, multifamily dwellings, a hotel and parking and street lighting. This project will result in several tools that others can use to replicate this project across the country, including an enhanced version of URBANopt and a developer’s handbook.