A new report on measuring energy savings

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With roughly $25 billion flowing out of the stimulus package to various energy efficiency programs, there’s a compelling need to measure and evaluate energy savings.

A new report from the Alliance to Save Energy asks:  “Are taxpayers, ratepayers, shareholders and property owners getting their money’s worth?” “Are energy savings and other benefits, such as air pollution and greenhouse gas reductions and enhanced reliability of electric grids, being delivered?”

Good questions. Hard answers. The conversation about how to measure energy efficiency has been going on for decades and there’s plenty of disagreement about methods of evaluation and the assumptions to be used. The report makes a good case that discussions on these topics need to accelerate and that a wide variety of stakeholders should be included.

As usual in topics involving government evaluation and measurement, the perfect is the enemy of the good. The acceptance of some uncertainty is unavoidable and the allure of more precise measurement and evaluation has to be balanced against cost. The problems of measurement — which are delineated in detail — should not stand in the way of tackling it. As the Urban Institute’s distinguished fellow Harry Hatry said to us several years ago.  “You just have to accept the fact that it’s better to be roughly right than precisely ignorant.”

The report is loaded with sources for more information — like the California Measurement Advisory Council database of evaluation studies from that state and the Consortium for Energy Efficiency database, which contains studies from other states.

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