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Site-Specific Measurement and Verification: neither Complex nor Expensive

The need to assess utility and government energy efficiency programs' performance accelerated the emergence of M&V methods. However, in this context, the "M&V" notions are often more in line with monitoring performances than measuring performances.

This distinction exists to this day and roughly differentiates program-level evaluation versus project-specific performance measurement.

Until the second half of the 1990s, the underlying concepts and methods for project-level performance assessments were loosely defined in various protocols and guidelines. Eventually, a need emerged to rationalize M&V activities, and the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP) was established by a worldwide consensus in 1996. The IPMVP quickly became the gold standard for M&V.

A Flexible FrameworkOptions

The strength of the IPMVP framework is its flexibility. The IPMVP framework offers four different options: A, B, C, and D. Two focusing on the measurement of specific and isolated energy efficiency measures (A & B), and two on the impact of multiple energy efficiency measures on the building as a whole when the isolation of specific energy efficiency measure is not possible or practical (C & D).

The choice of an IPMVP option is driven by many factors, including M&V cost and the level of precision needed by the parties involved in a project. Every energy efficiency project is unique and carries its own balance of uncertainty and accuracy.

M&V is Neither Complex nor Expensive

Despite the flexibility of the four IPMVP options, some claim that M&V is not practical, too expensive, and even impossible. Let us have a closer look at these claims.

  • Not practical or reliable. It is possible to validate the amount of efficiency gained by using M&V best practices. Although M&V may never be 100% accurate, it has the merit of providing a reliable, repeatable, and verifiable standardized method that is needed for any specific purpose.
  • Too expensive. The cost of M&V can be adapted to each energy efficiency project and varies based on the required precision level and the size of the investment. The typical M&V cost is around 3 to 5% of a project's capital cost, impacting the internal rate of return (IRR) by only about 1%. It thus has little or no impact on the economic basis for an investment decision.
  • Not possible. While it is true that developing and implementing M&V plans on energy efficiency projects may sometimes be complex and can be technically challenging for many to do, it is fundamentally wrong to assume it is impossible to do. In most cases, and with the appropriate skills and knowledge, the development and implementation of an M&V plan are relatively easy to develop.

When it comes to site-specific M&V, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. But there is a workable solution to all projects' sizes.

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