In recent years, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has launched several initiatives to reduce its fossil fuel use by improving energy efficiency. Reducing the amount of energy used across DoD’s portfolio of buildings is a significant opportunity and key to reducing emissions and energy consumption across the United States. However, identifying and profiling the energy savings potential of individual buildings presents significant challenges for DoD’s large and diverse building portfolio.

FirstFuel’s Remote Building Analytics (RBA) platform is an analytics-driven energy information service designed to help large government agencies and utilities rapidly and cost-effectively target, prioritize, quantify, enable, and track energy savings in heterogeneous building portfolios, at scale. This project examined how DoD could measure the impact of energy audits across hundreds of buildings. To conduct each remote audit, FirstFuel utilized four pieces of information: (1) 1 year of historical electric interval consumption data, (2) weather data from the building’s closest weather station, (3) geographical information systems (GIS) information from the building’s location, and (4) a building information survey completed by DoD site energy managers. The weather and GIS data were sourced by FirstFuel, and not provided by the DoD.

Technology Description

Requiring only hourly utility electric meter data, the building type, and address, the FirstFuel RBA can produce a remote set of building-specific performance insights and customized recommendations at an end-use consumption level. These recommendations can be utilized by agencies, such as DoD, at the management, site, and/or building level to identify opportunities and plan and execute efficiency projects. In addition, FirstFuel’s analytics can track the efficiency measures enacted by building managers/operators and quantify their effectiveness over time. All of these services are performed remotely, and require no on-site visits or additional metering device installations. FirstFuel analytics have been independently and repeatedly validated by third parties across many dimensions of performance (e.g., accuracy, speed, cost, scale, impact potential).

This project focused on determining whether FirstFuel’s end-to-end solution can enable DoD to scale energy efficiency initiatives across its large and varied building portfolio. FirstFuel analytics were applied to a total of 100 DoD buildings across five different DoD-specific building types. FirstFuel worked with 11 installations across the country to conduct the performance analysis.

Demonstration Results

The results of this project and achievement of the performance objectives suggest that the FirstFuel RBA can present significant advantages over DoD’s traditional approach to on-site energy audits and continuous performance monitoring. For example, traditional walk-through audits run between $5,000 and $10,000, and take several weeks or more to complete, including multiple days on-site. These traditional audits are too costly and time consuming to deliver savings at scale, and yield large reports that are often difficult to use as an efficiency prioritization and planning tool. In contrast, FirstFuel’s remote audits can be accomplished in hours, regardless of size or type of building, and at a fraction of the cost without a site visit, while simultaneously yielding performance analysis results similar to ASHRAE Level II on-site audits (the comparison on-site used in this demonstration project).

Implementation Issues

FirstFuel’s RBA can be used to launch, manage, and track major energy efficiency initiatives across DoD’s vast portfolio of buildings. Benefits accrue from the following:

  • Immediately implementing low or no cost operational savings uniquely identified through the FirstFuel platform.
  • Significantly reducing the time and cost relative to traditional on-site audits across a range of building types specific to DoD.
  • Providing DoD site energy managers with an insightful, intuitive tool to focus and refine energy savings efforts, and compare buildings to others within the portfolio.
  • Tracking energy performance and savings over time to track progress of long-term efforts, aid reporting, validate the effectiveness of energy conservation projects, and maintain the persistence of savings.

Because FirstFuel’s RBA does not require any on-site devices or visits, the platform can be deployed rapidly and with no further installation cost to all DoD buildings with interval meters. Given the widespread deployment of such meters throughout both the Army and Navy branches, with extensive work underway for almost complete coverage of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) in all of the Military Services, the FirstFuel RBA is effective and leverages existing or planned infrastructure investments.

Two potential limitations to this approach were observed in the demonstration. The first relates to building energy data. Buildings that do not have interval electric consumption data were not applicable for the remote auditing technology. In conjunction, for those buildings with significantly less than 1 years’ worth of interval electric consumption data, the remote analysis proved difficult or impossible to complete. The second limitation concerns buildings that are not occupied for months at a time, or buildings that have very low energy consumption. These buildings may present challenges to perform the end-use analyses.