Beyond Widgets – Systems Incentive Programs for Utilities

Publication Type

Journal Article



Utility incentive programs remain one of the most significant means of deploying commercialized, but underutilized building technologies to scale. However, these programs have been largely limited to component-based products (e.g., lamps, RTUs). While some utilities do provide ‘custom’ incentive programs with whole building and system level technical assistance, these programs require deeper levels of analysis, resulting in higher program costs. This results in custom programs being restricted to utilities with greater resources, and are typically applied mainly to large or energy-intensive facilities, leaving much of the market without cost effective access and incentives for these solutions. In addition, with increasingly stringent energy codes, cost effective component-based solutions that achieve significant savings are dwindling.

Building systems (e.g., integrated façade, HVAC and/or lighting solutions) can deliver higher savings that translate into large sector-wide savings if deployed at the scale of these programs. However, systems application poses a number of challenges – baseline energy use must be defined and measured; the metrics for energy and performance must be defined and tested against; in addition, system savings must be validated under well understood conditions.

This paper presents a sample of findings of a project to develop validated utility incentive program packages for three specific integrated building systems, in collaboration with Xcel Energy (CO, MN), ComEd, and a consortium of California Public Owned Utilities (CA POUs) (Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) and the Southern California Public Power Authority (SCPPA)). These program packages consist of system specifications, system performance, M&V protocols, streamlined assessment methods, market assessment and implementation guidance.



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