energy data

Green Button opens energy data channels

Secure, standardized transfer of utility information is first step in consumption analysis
Thursday, April 30, 2015
By Sasha Sud and Caroline Bordeaux

The collection, analysis and reporting of energy data is an integral, yet often cumbersome part of building management. As it currently stands, collecting electricity data — and subsequently cleaning, converting and interpreting that data —  from utilities across a variety of jurisdictions in North America is a time and resource-intensive process.

This is partly due to the lack of standards around how the data is formatted, and partly due to the manual and often administratively intensive process for consumers to access that data. In Ontario, with more than 70 electric and 5 gas utilities providing energy consumption data to consumers, these challenges around data access, processing and sharing often get very time and cost-intensive.

The Green Button standard can provide building owners and managers with the ability to access and share their electricity, gas and water consumption data with vendors of their choice in a standardized, secure way, no matter what the jurisdiction. In Ontario, the standard is available to more than 60 per cent of electricity customers with smart meters. Early stage discussions are also underway with natural gas utilities and water data stakeholders.

For the commercial and institutional sector, the Green Button standard could be a game changer, making energy and sustainability reporting initiatives — like BOMA BESt, LEED and REALpac’s energy benchmarking survey — easier and less expensive. The Green Button makes electricity data available sooner, data collection easier and more cost-effective by allowing building owners and managers to collect data for all their buildings, across multiple utilities and jurisdictions, in a consistent format. More frequent and easy access to a building’s consumption data should also enable operators to take corrective actions sooner.

Ministry of Energy endorsement

Originally developed in the United States and available to 100 million customers in key large utilities, the Green Button standard was introduced to Ontario in 2012 with the support of the Minister of Energy. Around the same time, the US Whitehouse issued a Presidential Memorandum, which directs all federal agencies to use the Green Button standard for their energy reporting and management practices. This is likely to drive the Green Button standard’s adoption even further and realize the high value use cases for  commercial and institutional customers.

The Ministry of Energy and MaRS Discovery District have jointly led efforts in Ontario — first establishing a working group in November 2012, comprised of key electricity industry stakeholders and the privacy commissioners office, to launch the first phase of the standard review and adoption. To enable improved and standardized electricity data access and sharing across the electricity sector, the Ontario Energy Board drafted a requirement to enable standardized, secure and electronic access to electricity consumption data in the Supplemental Report on Smart Grid.

Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan released in 2013 made several references to the Green Button standard as a means for empowering consumers. Elsewhere in Canada, BC Hydro is also actively investigating the rollout of the Green Button standard in its service territory.

Ontario implementation

Currently, ten of Ontario’s local distribution companies (LDCs) have implemented the first phase of the Green Button standard, called Download My Data — stretching its reach to more than 3 million residential and small business units. Given the sizeable benefits enabled by the standard to the large commercial and institutional sector, industry associations — including REALpac, BOMA Canada, BOMA Toronto, CivicAction, and CaGBC Toronto Chapter — have expressed support in making Green Button available to their members.

“The initiative in Ontario or Canada would allow our members to receive electrical consumption data in a consistent format, regardless of where their building is,” John Smiciklas, director of energy and environment with the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada told the REMI Network last fall. “It could be very significant going forward because in a lot of cases, tracking overall electricity consumption is a manual process based on the bills you receive.”

Green Button could additionally contribute to successful tenant engagement strategies through innovative ways to understand the whole building’s energy consumption. This can also be extended to sub-metered data. For example, Schneider Electric’s implementation in Washington DC includes sub-metered data converted in the Green Button format.

The second phase of the standard called Connect My Data, allows building owners and managers to easily and automatically share their electricity data with solution/service providers or compatible databases. London Hydro and Hydro One are currently piloting Connect My Data, along with private sector partners, BuiltSpace and Energent. A larger rollout is expected in the upcoming months.

“As a founding member of the Green Button Alliance, London Hydro continues to underscore its commitment to increase adoption of Green Button across Ontario-based and Canadian utilities,” says Syed Mir, the LDC’s vice president of corporate services and CIO.

Compatible benchmarking platforms

Ongoing integration  of major energy reporting, benchmarking and management platforms expands the potential for future applications. Notably, NRCan has recently completed the integration of its RETScreen Expert software with the Green Button Download My Data standard. This will enable users of the tool to easily download and import their energy data into the software, allowing for enhanced performance monitoring, measurement and verification, targeting and reporting.

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Portfolio Manager tool is also compatible with Green Button, where it can import and export data in the Green Button Download My Data format. Integration for consumer-authorized automated data transfer into the tool is currently underway, as part of making it compatible with Green Button Connect My Data.

MaRS Discovery District is now engaged in initial conversations with Ontario’s large gas utilities to provide gas consumption data in a standardized format. Potential rollout of the standard across the gas sector could further significantly reduce the burden of collecting and sending data for building owners and managers.

Meanwhile, some established industry practitioners are currently actively developing and/or modifying their data access processes to enable simpler and more time cost efficient data access, where the Green Button standard has been rolled out by utilities for their commercial customers.

“It’s clear now that energy data analytics can drive tremendous performance gains. With client properties across Canada and the US served by hundreds of utility companies, we have had to become experts at building custom tools to get data flowing, but our true passion is all about using the data,” observes Neal Bach, president of  Energy Profiles Limited. “If every utility company standardized on Green Button Connect My Data, a significant obstacle would be removed for the industry and we would see widespread examples of data being used to make a real difference.”

Sasha Sud is energy data project manager and Caroline Bordeaux is project and partnership coordinator with the MaRS Discovery District.

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