From utility liabilities to AI-driven maintenance scheduling & sustainability, 2019 will be a year of complexity & progress for our built environment. We hope these predictions help you chart the way.

Predictions are a powerful component of Gridium’s software. They help with peak demand alerts, M&V baselines, annual budget forecasts, and we’ve even done some early R&D work on predicting when a certain maintenance task is due. After an already eventful start to the year, I hope these predictions for 2019 are helpful.

Where’s that Measurement & Verification report?

Gone are the days of blackbox savings projections in energy efficiency project proposals. Now that accurate and precise M&V tools like ours are commercially available, the folks financing energy efficiency investments are wising up to data-driven validation. Normalized Metered Energy Consumption (NMEC) is a part of this, and more utility programs will layer M&V into new programs right from the start. This will mean more pilots, more projects, and greater confidence in EE paybacks. For example, more buildings will ask us for help validating their investments in storage assets.

Utilities lose confidence

This is an easy prediction to make, but a hard one to stomach. PG&E will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, consuming a lot of effort, spurring tons of questions, and reminding building operators across the nation that ward-of-the-state utility liabilities can impact their business. Read this for more detail on our thoughts about PG&E. CCAs won’t be sitting the discussion out, either. Get a bill audit and don’t let your results atrophy.

There is, actually, an app for that

We launched a building occupant self-service portal for mobile devices over 3 years ago, making it easier and faster for property management and engineering teams to handle corrective maintenance issues and opening up time on the calendar for juicy preventive maintenance paybacks. Now, in 2019, there’s an entirely new tool category often referred to as “digital amenity.” When building occupants ask for an easy way to communicate issues to their PM team, much more of that activity will start on the smartphone in their pocket.

Prices rise for electricity

This prediction is also easy to make and hard on the stomach. The EIA predicts residential and industrial prices to rise, with commercial rates flat. On the same national level, the EIA reports natural gas prices will fall. Exit fees for Community Choice Aggregators will get tricky, and, of course, even Bloomberg expects that PG&E’s bankruptcy will leave ratepayers on the hook. Furthermore, there is $1 billion under collection in California’s 2018 Energy Resource Recovery Account (ERRA), so CA buildings should plan for a $0.015 cent increase from that. Price variability isn’t the same as a rise, but with respect to Net Asset Value, budget line item deviation is no bueno. This is one reason we built data-driven budget forecasts capabilities into our software. And don’t forget, the duck curve will demand shifts in Time-of-Use peak demand periods (which is happening in Southern California).

Falling prices for IoT bundles drive installations

Ten years ago, energy efficiency site servers were 2 times the size and cost 5 times as much. And now, I am happy to say, the software leveraging that data and the big-data algorithms turning it into useful insights is 10 times better. Some software providers are making the bold decision to roll their own hardware–we prefer an open and standards-based approach that provides our buildings a future-proof, flexible architecture with best-in-class technology. We’ve seen industrial processes submeter equipment to manage demand thresholds to qualify for lower utility rates, and technology campuses extend their sophisticated HQ energy strategies to remote sites where online smartmeter data isn’t yet available. And for maintenance, it’s delightful to change one setting on a generator controller and get data redirected from email into a trackable application.

More data and more data types

You’ve heard the IoT stat: 90 percent of all data in the world was generated over the past two years. Put differently, data is coming. Those submeter bundles will spin off data, but the payback is buried in turning it into actionable insights. Last year, we connected natural gas data to our energy management platform, this year will be water and data streams like reverse flow or hourly electricity data. And the fidelity of maintenance data on individual 3rd party vendors and specific pieces of equipment will improve.

AI ditches Wired Magazine for your building’s wires

Long a popular topic among venture capitalists (Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, Peter Thiel, and Elon Musk have their OpenAI effort), Artificial Intelligence will start to feel real for real estate in 2019. Indeed, Gridium has been pioneering certain AI techniques to make our software more useful to buildings, including learning algorithms that adjust baselines to interpreting and classifying maintenance tasks and intelligently scheduling them across the calendar. Now that “Proptech” is considered a market sector and with companies even trying to define themselves with the AI term, we expect buildings will actually start to engage here. As always, we’ll continue to focus on the operational outcomes rather than the messaging, but to the extent building owners will see efficient building operations as an outcome of AI, we’re all for it.

Portfolios catch on to sustainability resurgence

Proactive building owners have been turning to Gridium as part of their technology strategy for years, but I see the market action turning up another notch in 2019. Simple and cost-effective submeter hardware has expanded the payback across the entire U.S….we’re finding energy efficiency opportunities at small retail stores and routing them through the preventive maintenance schedule. The updates to EnergyStar scores will be a strong reminder to building owners that energy efficiency is not set-and-forget. And the PG&E bankruptcy proceeding, which is preceded by wildfires that were fueled by climate change and had building occupants wearing smoke masks into work, will be a constant reminder of sustainability’s importance to our society.

2019 will be filled with complexity and opportunity–we’re looking forward to it!

About Tom Arnold

Tom Arnold is co-founder and CEO of Gridium. Prior to Gridium, Tom Arnold was the Vice President of Energy Efficiency at EnerNOC, and cofounder at TerraPass. Tom has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. When he isn't thinking about the future of buildings, he enjoys riding his bike and chasing after his two daughters.

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