Database for Energy Efficient Resources

For most Americans, the word “DEER” conjures up images of Bambi. But for Californians, “DEER” has an entirely different meaning. Here in the Golden State, DEER stands for the Database for Energy Efficient Resources, an enormous catalogue of information on energy efficient technologies and measures.

DEER was created—and continues to be funded and operated—by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the state agency that regulates privately owned electric and natural-gas utilities. The CPUC also regulates the energy efficiency programs run by those utilities, ensuring that the programs protect the interests of the ratepayers who fund them; the CPUC does so by offering rebates that are in line with the energy savings they produce.

That’s where DEER comes in. The CPUC uses the information in DEER to determine what size rebate a customer should receive for installing a particular type of energy-saving measure, based on the amount of energy that measure is projected to save. Whether it’s LED lighting, a high-efficiency heating and air conditioning system, or an advanced refrigeration unit, DEER serves as a repository of information on that equipment’s effectiveness in reducing energy use. DEER covers standard off-the-shelf efficiency measures—often referred to as “deemed measures”—that are not designed as customized solutions for an individual building.

Because technology changes rapidly, the CPUC periodically proposes revisions to DEER in order to keep up with advances in energy efficient equipment that may affect the costs and benefits of deemed measures. The 2019–2020 update covered 17 different areas. Some of the more significant revisions were

  • changing the peak-hour period to 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. effective January 1, 2020 (the peak-hour period is currently 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.);
  • establishing LEDs as a standard baseline for indoor and outdoor lighting in new construction, normal replacement, and burnout replacement;
  • adding new measures to the database in response to requests by program administrators; and
  • correcting previous measure values due to errors discovered in existing assumptions or improvements identified in those assumptions.

Ecology Action carefully reviews each set of  proposed revisions and lends the CPUC and its contractors’ expertise on the development of values that are advantageous to customers. Ecology Action is now offering comments to shape the direction of specific proposals within the revisions being planned for 2021.

to Ecology Action for guidance on evaluating energy efficient technology. For example, Ecology Action has created workpapers that have been adopted by the CPUC and  calculate the energy savings of certain types of equipment in specific scenarios. Ecology Action has also developed workpapers on new technology coming into the marketplace in order to quantify related energy savings. The CPUC utilizes  these workpapers to inform DEER values in determining whether the new technology should be approved and incentivized.

Why is Ecology Action’s work on DEER so important for commercial customers? Major energy efficiency upgrades for businesses can often take six months or more from the time plans are drawn up to the time installation is completed. Much can happen over that period to change the way the energy savings are calculated—which ultimately affects the size of the rebate the customer receives. Therefore, it’s critically important for customers to know not only how the efficiency upgrades they may be considering are being evaluated today but also how the upgrades will be evaluated six months from today.

Because of its in-depth knowledge of how DEER values are established , Ecology Action can help customers determine the most advantageous timing for major upgrades. For example, if changes expected in the next round of DEER revisions could have a negative impact on a customer’s project, moving quickly may be the wisest course of action; if those revisions will have a positive impact on the project, waiting may be the better choice. Either way, Ecology Action’s firsthand knowledge of DEER’s revisions  can assist customers in maximizing their rebate potential.

Several years ago, California’s privately-owned utilities formed an organization called the California Technical Forum, or Cal TF. Cal TF’s mission is to “support the growth and success of energy efficiency and integrated demand side management through a technically rigorous, independent, transparent peer review of California energy efficiency values and other related technical information.” In other words, Cal TF looks to perform a function similar to that of the DEER database by  issuing technical information and documents such as workpapers and savings estimates for deemed measures; producing guidelines, templates and protocols to support statewide measure development; and providing an easily accessible and searchable website to document its values, methodology, and decision-making.

At this time, no one knows whether Cal TF will ultimately integrate with DEER or even replace it. However, Ecology Action is reinforcing its leadership role in California energy efficiency by building a relationship with Cal TF as well. Regardless of the outcome, commercial customers can continue to rely on Ecology Action to provide an outstanding level of expertise and technical know-how that will offer the maximum benefit on energy efficiency upgrades.