The world of efficiency is not just complex and quickly changing on the technical front. There also are significant shifts in the federal, state and local laws governing facility energy use.
It is important for technology folks to track these issues. A helpful tool to do that is Advanced Energy Economy’s PowerSuite platform, which was introduced in 2014 and upgraded last week.
The key, simply, is that knowledge is power. “PowerSuite is a unified platform that allows advocacy organizations, companies, other nonprofits to identify and manage energy policy risks and opportunities,” said Eric Fitz, AEE’s Vice President of Engineering and Product Development.
Companies that don’t pay attention to legislative changes may be wasting money or even unknowingly operating in a way that could cause it problems with authorities. The PowerSuite platform, which now uses machine learning and artificial intelligence, tracks the state of these changes and their potential impact. The bottom line is that legislation has impacts that filter down to the day-to-day energy operations of buildings. Knowing what changes are coming — and, just as importantly, which aren’t — is to an organization’s advantage.
Fitz made a distinction between legislation and regulation. The platform, at this point, focuses on legislative forecast. In the future, AEE will use the same basic platform to address regulation, which is how legislation is actually applied in the field. PowerSuite is available to AEE member companies and partner organizations, which Fitz says is a small subset of its customers. The platform will be available to non-members perhaps later this year, he said.
Last week, AEE said that it is adding Microsoft Azure cloud to PowerSuite. “[With] Azure’s machine learning technology integration, AEE’s PowerSuite bill tracker is now a more powerful advocacy tool for advancing policies that will move us all toward a more affordable clean energy future,” wrote Microsoft Chief Environmental Strategist Rob Bernard in response to emailed questions from Energy Manager Today.
The value of the platform goes beyond telling an organization what must be done when regulations change or a bill becomes law. Since it offers information that can point to whether a bill is likely or unlikely to become law, PowerSuite can help an organization make informed equipment buying decisions or more effectively plan an upgrade or retrofit. On a more subtle level, the odds that legislation is enacted shift as they work their way through the process. The platform follows this process and, in essence, keeps organizations informed on changes that could impact them.
Thus, planning for a change in a bill that is likely to pass into law can be prioritized over preparing for changes in a bill that is a long shot. This kind of forward thinking, Fitz said, in the past only was available to the largest companies through their lobbyists, experts or other expensive sources. This is aimed at democratizing the process. “The bill forecasts allows you, whether you are a small or large organization, to optimize resources. So if you see legislation is going to fail, you know not to waste time on it. Or, if it is very likely to pass, you [prepare accordingly]. It’s about enabling companies and other advocates to strategize in a more effective way for any legislative planning they are doing.”
The mandate is broad. Fitz says that 100 data points per bill are tracked. In total, the database includes 800,000 bills. “Every piece of state legislation, and things in federal bills, are included,” Fitz said. “Soon we will be applying the same machine learning technology on the regulatory side. It keeps tabs on all dockets and filings from both the state public utility commissions and FERC. The PUCs and FERC define the rules and regulations around the legislation and determine how laws actually are carried out.”
Fitz added that a test of the system – done in a conservative way that matched the platform’s initial take on legislation and didn’t rely on incremental updates that the system produced during time the bill was being considered – proved to be 87 percent accurate.