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Helping a large Midwest utility identify value by untangling a web of energy efficiency data

Background

While implementing new state energy legislation, a large investor owned utility in the Midwest was challenged with expanding its energy efficiency (EE) portfolio while harnessing its existing, systemwide deployment of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). The utility’s annual EE budget had grown into the hundreds of millions of dollars, with over 40 separate programs and more than 20 implementation-related contractors, including several which utilized AMI interval data.
With the expansion of EE programs, the utility found itself struggling with the volume of EE-related data. The number of sources and uses of data had gotten so complex that key EE staff no longer understood what data they had, where it was coming from, or how external contractors were getting data from the utility. With the goal of developing a baseline “Data Map” to understand the supporting data systems and data flows, our client approached MCR for help.

Solution

The MCR team brought deep experience to the project in both EE program management and EE information systems, and worked with our client to establish the EE systems and data baseline. MCR began by reviewing the state energy legislation, EE portfolio filings, internal organization charts, external vendor lists and EE-related system documentation. With this background, the MCR consultants then conducted over 20 interviews with EE and information technology staff, where they identified and documented the key EE support systems, data flows and data management processes.

When the detailed field work described above was completed, MCR developed a Data Map describing the key systems and data flows. MCR facilitated two onsite workshops to validate the Data Map showed the key supporting EE systems and the flows by which data moved into and out of the systems. In addition to verifying the Data Map, the project team also discussed and documented observations and opportunities for improvement.

Results

The resulting Data Map highlighted two key existing systems: A customer relationship management (CRM) system for marketing and lead development, and a separate data warehouse and project workflow processing system (the EE tracking system). Interfaces between the two systems and other data sources and feeder systems were included to show a complete high-level picture of how the EE data was captured, processed and reported.

The Data Map and documentation of observations identified several opportunities to improve the management of the data flows and EE processes. These included:

  • Enhancing the relationship between marketing, outreach and lead development, and increasing program participation by improving the interfaces between the CRM and EE tracking systems.
  • Improving EE program performance and reducing data inconsistency by developing a user-accessible reporting tool.
    Increasing the EE staff’s ability to manage program budgets and reconcile them to the utility’s books by incorporating enterprise financial system data in the EE tracking system.
  • Reducing the amount of time spent developing and managing data by instituting a set of portfolio-wide data management policies and procedures with standardized data definitions and procedures for how data requests are made, managed and fulfilled.

MCR’s client now has great insight into what systems are in place and how data is generated, stored and reported. In addition, the client now understands the opportunities available to enhance the EE systems, data management and processes. As the opportunities are implemented in future phases, the utility will be able to realize significant value through better management of EE budgets, program implementation and overall EE operations.