Balfour Beatty Communities' Smart Meter Resident Energy Savings Program
The Smart Meter Resident Energy Savings Program was created to leverage smart meter data using a proactive or “push to” resident engagement strategy. Balfour Beatty Communities asked renters across 11 communities that were interested in joining a savings program to select a method of communication (e.g., text, Twitter, email), then tested these three methods to evaluate the effectiveness of each.
The Smart Meter Resident Energy Savings Program included 3,900 homes across the Southeast U.S. Locations included: Charleston, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Mayport, FL; Kings Bay, GA; Gulfport MS; Panama City, FL; Pensacola, FL; Whiting Field, FL; Key West, FL; and Meridian, MS.
Participating homes ranged in size and age, from 100-year old historic structures to new construction. New homes were built to ENERGYSTAR® standards at a minimum, and included LEED® for Homes features throughout. Many existing homes had already received refurbishments, including energy efficient appliances and lighting. Balfour Beatty Communities purposefully tested a variety of home types and sizes to understand how the actions of residents, via demand side management strategies, could impact energy savings.
Each community conducted a resident kickoff meeting and outreach campaign. New residents were offered participation in the program. A third-party billing company sent smart meter data to WattzOn, which converted the data into “house” or “habit” information. WattzOn, Inc. is a Silicon Valley based company focused on energy conservation via data analytics. They partnered with Balfour Beatty to conduct the smart meter program. The program was designed so that energy uses that fell under the “habit” category were used as triggers to email, text, or end specific behavior change tips to residents in the social media platform they preferred.
The square footage for 11 naval station sites in the Residential Energy Conservation Program was 6,810,000, or an average of 1,315 square feet per home. The five sites participating in “Digital Nudges” included 5,130,000 square feet. Digital Nudges is a term used to describe the group of homes that received digital tips for energy saving behaviors. The three demand side management strategies comprising the Smart Meter Resident Energy Savings Program are:
- Monthly Consumption Statements -- compared similar house types and showed residents their usage compared to a baseline.
- Digital Nudges -- leveraged smart meter data to send personalized messages to residents via their preferred social media outlet.
- Personalized Coaching -- added in-home visits to study resident habits and recommend personal strategies, in addition to Digital Coaching.
Tools & Resources
Tools included REX2 smart meters on a technologically advanced self-healing mesh network. Yardi Energy Services collected and distributed the smart meter data for analysis to Balfour Beatty Communities and its partner, WattzOn. The partnership of Balfour Beatty Communities and WattzOn created an interactive platform that notified residents of specific behavior changes they could make to reduce energy consumption.
The program ran from January-July 2013, and on average, Balfour Beatty Communities achieved 15% energy savings per month, and changes in electricty use per month. An additional 5% savings from Home Coaching visits was achieved (20% average savings), but Digital Nudges were found to be more cost effective than Home Coaching (4 cents per kWh saved vs. 71 cents per kWh saved).
With 344,000 kWh saved in 4 months, and a blended electricity rate of $0.12, annual expected savings would be approximately $120,000, which translate into residents saving an average of $20/home/month.
Balfour Beatty Communities learned through this project that studying patterns of micro data from smart meters allows energy demand to be categorized as “habit” or “house” related. Property managers used reports provided by WattzOn, Inc to identify preventative maintenance issues, which avoided undue costs to residents and the housing owners.
Balfour Beatty Communities also learned that a program like this can be offered on a monthly recurring-fee basis. Since the most successful strategy (Digital Coaching) was identified, and the system is already established, future enrollment will be more economical and can be implemented based on demand from each community. Popularity of the program can be seen in the survey results posted below.
Posted below is a table of results of the "coaching" tools used and the frequency of each.
The following graphs show the estimated energy in KWh saved for each type of smart meter program used, the net savings at a single site, and the difference in energy use between control and program participants. Energy savings results were not only consistent over time in each community, but also consistent across communities. Overall, more than 340,000 kWh were saved and the Digital Nudges program generated the largest impact, while the Home Coaching program achieved incremental savings. At an average cost of 12 cents per kWh, the Smart Meter Program saved residents over $40,000 worth of energy during the program period.
The following table reports savings for each base by month. Savings are calculated as energy use compared to non-participating homes on the same base. As the table shows,there were only two months in which just one base failed to show savings from the Smart Meter Program.
Savings at Individual Smart Meter Program Communities and Estimated kWh Avoided
An objective of this project was to compare consumer engagement strategies, the “treatment groups.” The study was designed to allow comparisons relative to non-participating homes on each base, and to bases in which residents were not offered opt-in programs. All residents on all bases received Monthly Statements. As the graph below shows, the two opt-in programs provided savings in each month. Home coaching participants were automatically enrolled in Digital Nudges, so the savings reported are incremental to that treatment group. Overall 1,493 out of 3,925 homes participated in Digital Nudges, and 127 homes out of 1,862 homes participated in Home Coaching.
Energy savings results were compared to January, as the program launched that month and few residents had opted in for any service. January serves as a pre-treatment benchmark.
- Home Coaching saved an incremental amount each month, ranging from 0%-7% additional savings over and above Digital Nudges.
- Digital Nudges saved a sizeable 1%-45% each month over the Statement Only homes.
- Home Coaching savings averaged 5% (incremental), while Digital Nudge savings averaged 15%. Thus the savings from Digital Nudges were significantly larger per participating home. Further, many more homes joined the Digital Nudge program, making this an effective and scalable consumer engagement strategy.
Balfour Beatty Communities created the Smart Meter Resident Energy Savings Program to leverage smart meter data using a proactive or “push to” resident engagement strategy, resulting in a 15% average energy reduction without capital investments.
Multifamily developer, owner, and manager
Gleaning energy savings from energy efficient buildings
Resident engagement strategy which provides specific feedback messages from smart meter data
Property reduced energy 15%, on average, without capital investments