We live in a data-driven society - data is everywhere! You most likely don’t think how much data and information you create; I sure didn’t think about it until now. Even when you’re sitting on your phone all day and watching Netflix on a rainy Sunday, you’re creating data. All the apps you use will analyze your information and create recommendations based on your user preferences and activity. For example, after searching for haunted houses, Facebook began showing me targeted ads to well-reviewed haunted houses in the area. Scary isn’t it? Or is it?
Scary or Helpful?
In this instance, it was less scary and more helpful. I was able to easily find a great deal on a nearby haunted house for a road trip with my friends. As I started to think about the importance of data and what about it scares people, I began to reflect on how this applies to the work we do at NEEP. Data is vital to help move the residential and commercial markets forward. In the NEEP region, retrofitting homes and buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a daunting but crucial task for Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and cities committed to climate change goals. It requires significant investment to replace aging cooling and heating systems with advanced heat pumps, incorporating solar PV and other renewable energy systems, and undertaking deep thermal efficiency improvements that minimize the need for active heating and cooling.
Across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, states and communities continue to implement residential labeling, commercial benchmarking policies, and building performance standards to help achieve climate goals. These three tasks alone collect vast amounts of data that is distributed, analyzed, and used to assess the performance of homes and buildings and determine specific program outcomes. This allows for more informed decisions, better future planning, more effective results, and greater certainty in reaching goals. If states and communities weren’t collecting data, they wouldn’t be able to effectively manage state and regional policies, benchmarking progress, and other efficiency programs or attribute energy savings and other program expenditures. So what’s so scary about this data?
I remembered my first couple weeks at NEEP and how overwhelmed I felt when learning about how much information and data we have. Working solely with just our tool, the Home Energy Labeling Information eXchange (HELIX), I was often nervous about how much data I am in charge of. And, each day, that grows! Now I love data - give me anything you got. Fear of the unknown made the data seem scary; if data isn’t reliable, it can be challenging. Transparency - not only on the back end with program administrators, but also on the front end with homeowners, real estate professionals, and property managers – can be eye-opening, though. After some thought, I realized the answer to my question - data isn’t so scary, but unreliable data is. Now, that’s bone-chilling!
You wouldn’t tune in to a weather channel where meteorologists don’t have reliable sources to make predictions. The same goes for utility program administrators or real estate professionals. This is why it’s important for data to be not only accessible but also reliable. For example, we often hear from real estate professionals about their struggles with sourcing home energy information and renewable attributes, and making sure the information is accurate. From realtors to appraisers, these professionals need a central repository of verified home energy information to properly valuate and market energy efficient homes to remediate fear of liability. Let’s squash this fear.
To wrap (subtle mummy pun) this up, I’ll repeat what Lord Kelvin famously stated, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” NEEP realizes that the lack of accessibility and transparency of home energy information, energy consumption data, and program data is one of the greatest barriers to achieving deeper energy savings across homes and buildings. Across the region, the challenge with access to data is a prevalent issue - though not an issue to be afraid of. Stakeholders continually reach out to our teams and ask for reliable information they can use to support their work. As a trusted regional energy efficiency organization, NEEP is here to support states and communities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic in their energy efficiency policies, programs, and related work. For more information on available tools and resources to help make data less frightening for you, reach out to the NEEP team!