Speaking the Same Language: The Importance of Open Standards in Energy Efficiency

Posted by Dave Yeager on November 14, 2018
Speaking the Same Language: The Importance of Open Standards in Energy Efficiency

Open standards provide the backbone for many markets and industries. The Internet itself could not exist without the collaborative, agreed-upon standards found in HTML and CSS.

However, the adoption of open standards in the energy efficiency industry has been slower to take hold. The prevalence of proprietary, black-box software and disconnected data has meant that much of the most useful information on best practices on building performance has remained hidden or scattered.

This means that home performance contractors lose the opportunity to learn from one another to deliver better savings. On a large scale, reliance on proprietary approaches to measuring, evaluating, quantifying and adjusting savings has created large uncertainties for utilities and program providers.

The Importance of Open Standards

OpenEE is a software-as-a-service company that provides an advanced M&V platform designed to facilitate pay-for-performance and the procurement of efficiency, electrification and demand flexibility as a distributed energy resource. We are a 100 percent remote company and have employees across the United States and in Canada.

As the creators of the open-source OpenEEmeter software and the leaders of the CalTRACK Methods Technical Working Group, we are a leading advocate for open standards in the efficiency industry, including HPXML.

Our enterprise deployment of the OpenEEmeter, which includes connections to utility data, automated ETL, and a data visualization platform, is already being used for pay-for-performance programs in California, Massachusetts, and soon Oregon.

Unlike traditional calculation-only M&V software, the OpenEE Platform is designed from the ground up to support pay-for-performance efficiency programs within a multi-node decentralized network. The OpenEE platform provides unique instances for each stakeholder, including procurement and aggregator nodes to manage transactional requirements, in addition to customized data connectors for transferring data and delivering reporting to stakeholders. Each node is designed to support a particular set of use cases tailored to different functions within a pay-for-performance marketplace and to ensure end-to-end security. All of this is made possible only by using open methods and open-source software that is verifiable by all parties. 

Toward a "Weights & Measures" for Energy Efficiency

Starting in 2013, HPXML set a precedent by creating an open, standardized approach to collecting and sharing sharing energy data.

The adoption of HPXML represents an important step toward the creation of a true "weights and measures" for energy efficiency data and calculations. By standardizing names, definitions, and data formats for building performance upgrades and allowing different software to exchange that data using a standard XML tool, HPXML opens the door for seamless sharing and aggregation.

OpenEE incorporates HPXML by providing out of the box support for the HPXML format in its RecurveOS Platform. This allows for immediate loading of individual project measures as well as building attributes, which in turn allows for a variety of “deep dive” analysis. Want to see how projects performed sliced by square footage? By contractor? By contractors who performed a certain type of intervention? If you’re using HPXML, data can easily be loaded for this type of analysis directly into RecurveOS from a wide variety of software tools and systems.

As an example, OpenEE has an existing integration with Build It Green. As new projects are created by Build It Green contractors, OpenEE is able to pull the HPXML from the Build It Green system and enrich the project data with it. This enables the types of sophisticated analysis described above, without having to input this data separately into the system. 

Beyond using standard formats for data where possible, OpenEE is committed to developing, standardizing and promoting open source methods and tools for calculating the value of energy efficiency itself.

To this end, OpenEE has spearheaded the creation of the CalTRACK Methods, a set of open methods for determining weather-adjusted energy efficiency and the OpenEEmeter, an open source software platform that performs the calculations necessary to derive the value of efficiency in a transparent way. The OpenEEmeter is under an Apache 2.0 license that allows it to be used by any part for any purpose – it’s a public resource. 

By using transparent methods, CalTRACK and the OpenEEmeter allow all stakeholders to agree on the same value for efficiency, and set the stage for energy savings to be procured and traded in the same way other distributed energy resources are.

Speaking the Same Language: The Future of Energy Efficiency

In order for the world to meet carbon and energy targets necessary to avert catastrophic global warming, energy efficiency and demand flexibility must both scale and adapt to the needs of a changing grid. In conjunction with advanced metering infrastructure and the use of open standards such as HPXML, BEDES, Green Button, and the CalTRACK Methods, we are putting in place the infrastructure to facilitate this transformation.

Open standards for data allows for faster and more seamless connection and insight into which methods, business models, and providers are most effective and under what conditions. This in and of itself has the potential to dramatically improve the effectiveness of efficiency programs.

Combining secure, standard protocols for sharing energy data with replicable, open standards for calculating efficiency makes it possible to shift away from top down programs toward distributed, market-driven pay-for-performance models that incentivize innovation and draw significant private investment into the industry.


Dave Yeager is a senior software engineer at OpenEE. He manages the data pipeline team and functionality for all third party OpenEE Platform integrations and works closely with clients to develop seamless back-end systems to clean, sort and upload energy data into the OpenEE meter platform.



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