Local Government Spotlight: Knoxville, Tennessee
Collaboration with Municipal Utility to Streamline Access to Energy- and Water-Use Data
Knoxville, Tennessee, worked with its municipal utility to develop a monthly consolidated utility bill for all of the city's facilities. The consolidated bill enhanced the city's energy consumption tracking, provided the ability to verify savings from energy efficiency projects, and allowed for more efficient use of staff time. In the 10 city buildings that use the most energy, cumulative energy consumption dropped by 16% from 2007 to 2014. In one example, access to comprehensive monthly utility-bill data confirmed $144,000 a year in savings realized through a light-emitting diode (LED) traffic signal retrofit.
Goal: Track and manage progress in achieving a 20% cumulative reduction in energy intensity by 2022 from a 2010 baseline year.
Barrier: Inefficient method and format of data delivered by utility.
Solution: Developed a monthly consolidated utility bill containing electric, natural gas, water, and sewer cost and consumption data for the city's facilities and nonmetered fire hydrant and outdoor lighting infrastructure.
Outcomes: Enhanced energy consumption tracking, provided the ability to verify savings from energy efficiency projects, and allowed for more efficient use of staff time. Cumulative energy consumption dropped by 16% from 2007 to 2014 in the 10 highest-consuming city buildings, and the city confirmed $144,000 a year in savings realized through an LED traffic signal retrofit.
Knoxville is the third-largest city in Tennessee with approximately 187,000 residents and a portfolio of 150 city-owned facilities spanning over 2 million square feet. In 2012, the city joined the U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings® Challenge and committed to reducing cumulative energy use in its portfolio of buildings by 20% by 2022 from a 2010 baseline year. The city also wants to improve accountability for energy expenditures, which represent 5%-6% of the city's total budget, and to verify energy and cost savings from a number of energy retrofit projects. The challenge was the inefficient method and format of data delivered by the city's utility vendors. Knoxville has more than 1,000 utility accounts serving metered and nonmetered infrastructure, including buildings, water and wastewater facilities, outdoor lights, and fire hydrants.
The city estimated that it would require one full-time employee to process paper bills for all of its accounts on an ongoing basis, so utilizing manual data entry of utility-billing data into its data management tool was simply not feasible. Instead, the city decided to employ a more streamlined approach to collecting and transferring energy and water use data to its utility-tracking platform.
Knoxville Drives the Effort With Support from the City's Top Leadership and Wins the Municipal Utility's Buy-In to Provide Added Service
Building on its existing relationship with the municipal utility, the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB), the city requested KUB deliver a monthly file containing a comprehensive list of the city's utility-billing data to streamline data transfer from KUB to the city's central energy database; however, there was no existing process for compiling data across the KUB's databases to a large customer such as the city. With no precedent for this data-sharing service, the city found that discussions between the city's top leadership and KUB's executives were necessary to bring attention to the city's request. The city's mayor and deputy mayors met with senior executives at KUB to communicate the city's vision and need for streamlined access to energy-and water-consumption data.
Knoxville Organizes and Verifies All Utility Accounts in Collaboration With the Municipal Utility
Before KUB could create a consolidated bill, the city first needed to compile and verify a comprehensive list of all of its accounts with KUB. In practice, reconciliation of the city's records with KUB's records took multiple iterations.
First, the city's sustainability manager worked in stretches of 20 hours a week on collecting and matching the city's assets and accounts. He then sent the city's list of accounts with questions and omissions to KUB. KUB then took a couple of weeks to verify the city's data and identified additional accounts in its data system that it considered as the city's accounts. The sustainability manager spent another 20 hours a week for a few weeks verifying the new accounts provided by KUB with city staff and then sent the updated list back to KUB for review.
The process went back and forth on and off for a year. Once the sustainability manager reconciled all of the city's accounts, the city and KUB were confident that only current and verified accounts were included in the consolidated bill. In total, it took approximately 1 year to develop the process for the creation and consistent delivery of the consolidated bill. Once the consolidated bill process was established, it took approximately 1 hour each month for KUB to aggregate the city's data.
Knoxville and Municipal Utility Develop a Custom Data Access Solution
Due to the unique nature of the request, the sustainability manager worked closely with KUB to implement a process to ensure KUB included the complete utility-bill data the city needed to adequately manage its energy consumption and costs. Creating a consolidated bill necessitated coordination with multiple database administrators because data were contained in several different databases. The city's main KUB account representative acted as the gateway to several other utility administrators who provided access to data required to produce a consolidated bill. KUB emails the city a spreadsheet every month that contains a comprehensive set of utility data for metered as well as nonmetered assets that the Office of Sustainability uses to populate the energy tracking software. See Table 1 below.
|Utility Data Included in Knoxville's Consolidated Bill|
|Service Type (commercial, industrial, outdoor lighting, fire protection, water, wastewater, water with sewer)|
|Billing Period Start and End Date|
|Usage Cost (dollars)|
|Unit of Measure (kW, kWh, Therm, CCFW)|
|Energy Service Quantity|
|Description (customer, energy, demand charges, connection type, and other charges, such as lamp and pole charges)|
Key Success Factors
Through this process, the city learned the following actions were critical to success:
- Understanding data needs before asking the utility for information
- Having a comprehensive inventory of facility names, addresses, fuel types, square footage, and building age
- Determining the data utilization process before the data are obtained
- Making the process as easy as possible for the utility
- Maintaining a good working relationship with the utility.
The consolidated bill solution enhanced the city's energy consumption tracking, provided the ability to verify savings from energy efficiency projects, and allowed for more efficient use of staff time. In the 10 city buildings that use the most energy, cumulative energy consumption dropped by 16% from 2007 to 2014.
The cost and energy information is used to guide the Knoxville Energy and Sustainability Initiative by providing an improved understanding of the infrastructure that drives energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions and allowing the city to track progress toward its conservation goals. See Figure 1 below.
|Energy Consumption Tracking||Energy Project Savings Verification||Efficient Use of City Staff Time|
In one example, access to comprehensive monthly utility bill data confirmed $144,000 a year in savings realized through an LED traffic signal retrofit. See Figure 2 below.
Because data demonstrated that streetlights are nearly as significant a source of CO2 emissions as the city's buildings, the city and KUB started negotiating the cost of converting existing streetlights to more energy-efficient lights. The city completed several LED retrofit projects and uses LED fixtures in all new street lighting projects.
Note: The information in this case study is based on primary research conducted in 2013-2014. Learn more about the guide's research and development.
To learn more about streamlining access to utility data, see Step 4.