Electric Load Shape Benchmarking for Small- and Medium-Sized Commercial Buildings

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Small- and medium-sized commercial buildings owners and utility managers often look for opportunities for energy cost savings through energy efficiency and energy waste minimization. However, they currently lack easy access to low-cost tools that help interpret the massive amount of data needed to improve understanding of their energy use behaviors. Benchmarking is one of the techniques used in energy audits to identify which buildings are priorities for an energy analysis. Traditional energy performance indicators, such as the energy use intensity (annual energy per unit of floor area), consider only the total annual energy consumption, lacking consideration of the fluctuation of energy use behavior over time, which reveals the time of use information and represents distinct energy use behaviors during different time spans. To fill the gap, this study developed a general statistical method using 24-hour electric load shape benchmarking to compare a building or business/tenant space against peers. Specifically, the study developed new forms of benchmarking metrics and data analysis methods to infer the energy performance of a building based on its load shape. We first performed a data experiment with collected smart meter data using over 2,000 small- and medium-sized businesses in California. We then conducted a cluster analysis of the source data, and determined and interpreted the load shape features and parameters with peer group analysis. Finally, we implemented the load shape benchmarking feature in an open-access web-based toolkit (the Commercial Building Energy Saver) to provide straightforward and practical recommendations to users. The analysis techniques were generic and flexible for future datasets of other building types and in other utility territories.

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