Retroficiency Finds Large Energy Efficiency Potential in NYC Buildings; National Model Could Avoid New Utility Infrastructure

May 12, 2015
Can energy efficiency in buildings actually displace new construction of power infrastructure? New York thinks so. Here’s what recent findings from Retroficiency and Consolidated Edison show.

New analytics out from Retroficiency show that energy efficiency in buildings can bring Consolidated Edison half way to its goal of deferring construction of a 52-MW substation in the Brooklyn/Queens area.

The Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management Program has become the focus of industry attention nationwide, as New York pursues an innovative approach to reducing peak demand.

Instead of building a $1 billion substation, Con Edison is seeking a much less expensive fix — $200 million in distributed energy to fill the peak need. This includes energy efficiency, along with other demand-side management projects the utility is activating.

Administered under order by the state Public Service Commission, the program is a first in the state and considered a potential model nationwide. It is part of New York’s larger Reforming the Energy Vision, an industry-changing effort to create a new kind of electricity grid, where markets animate the elevated use of distributed energy.

Retroficiency’s Role

As part of the Brooklyn/Queens project, Con Edison commissioned Retroficiency to conduct a virtual assessment of about 1,000 medium and large buildings in the area. The assessment revealed potential savings of 176 GWh and demand reduction of 23 MW at peak — which is about half of the requirement targeted by the utility.

The savings potential is significant. But equally interesting is the building owners’ response to the program. They are showing much higher interest in moving forward with energy efficiency programs than is typical — four times more are responding than usually do from a utility marketing campaign, said Mike Kaplan, Retroficiency’s vice president of marketing.

Why such success?

Kaplan said that the program was able to overcome one of the biggest barriers in the energy efficiency market: a lack of information and insight given to customers about potential savings specific to their facilities.

Typically, utilities approach building owners with a generic energy efficiency message. But it’s much more effective “to go to them with a message of, ‘We’ve analyzed your energy consumption, and we can say with confidence that you have 25 percent overall potential [energy savings].We think there might be a lighting opportunity and retro-commissioning opportunity. Would you be interested in investigating them further? And oh by the way, we have incentives that can reduce the upfront costs,’” said Kaplan in a recent interview.

The findings are particularly significant to Con Edison, since it hopes to target several constrained areas of the grid using virtual assessments and other means for identifying distributed energy potential.

“Turning raw data into actionable information is key to customer engagement and empowerment. Further, we see clear benefits of being able to identify the right customers to target at scale and achieving building-specific insights, and we believe virtual assessments will be a key part of our energy efficiency and load reduction efforts going forward,” said Colin Smart, Con Edison’s section manager for targeted demand management.

Con Edison already is identifying other areas of New York City where electrical overloads are likely. The utility intends to contract for distributed energy solutions via competitive solicitation, as it has it did with the Brooklyn/Queens project. (The company received a strong response from the Brooklyn/Queens request for information — 78 proposals.)

By way of example, Con Edison pointed out in a PSC filing last month that it has identified a potential need for alternative resources to resolve an overload in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall that will begin as 4 MW in 2018 and grow to 14 MW by 2024. The utility described it as “one of a number of overloads projected over the next 10 years” in the New York City area.

For Retroficiency, the Brooklyn/Queens result is one of a series of recent wins.

The company announced May 12 that its struck deals with three new utility commercial energy efficiency programs. AEP Ohio, Puget Sound Energy and United Illuminating. The utilities collectively represent 300,000 commercial customers consuming nearly 26 TWh annually. Retroficiency also is working with CLEAResult on a program it is delivering for Kansas City Power & Light.

The new contracts add to the list of more than 20 programs using Retroficiency’s deep analytics platform.

Read more stories about New York’s distruptive energy transformation by subscribing to Energy Efficiency Markets Newsletter. It’s free here.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is the editor and founder of She is co-founder and former editor of Microgrid Knowledge.