Scout: A Framework for Prospective Evaluation of Energy Efficiency R&D

Sunday, February 14, 2016
Chioke Harris, US Department of Energy, Washington, DC
Given a limited budget to invest in research and development (R&D) projects, the Building Technologies Office (BTO) at the U.S. Department of Energy has developed a modeling package, “Scout,” that evaluates the potential U.S. energy conservation impact of emerging building efficiency measures. Such efficiency measures could involve improvements to the performance of existing technologies, or more disruptive changes to the way building services are provided. Using the Scout modeling framework, disparate measures can be compared against consistent baselines using a common set of assumptions. Each measure under consideration is primarily characterized by its performance (e.g., an improved COP for a heat pump measure), service lifetime, unit and installed cost, and the year the product is anticipated to enter the market. Relevant baseline data are obtained from the EIA Annual Energy Outlook. To calculate the reduction in U.S. energy use arising from the introduction of the measures of interest, three different product deployment cases are evaluated and compared to the baseline. These cases reflect immediate, ubiquitous uptake; effective introduction of a minimum performance standard; or typical market diffusion of a new product or technology. The energy savings of each measure is calculated for each year until 2040 and for each of five climate zones. Uncertainty in the measure characterization can be captured using probability distributions and incorporated in the energy savings calculation using Monte Carlo sampling. Energy use interactions between technologies, such as the heating and cooling impacts of a reduction in waste heat from more efficient lighting, are also included in the savings calculation. Assuming an efficiency standards-like adoption regime across all of the technology areas in which BTO supports R&D, Scout results demonstrate that almost 13 quads of energy use could be avoided in 2030. Overall, the greatest energy savings potentials are associated with lighting technologies, heating and cooling systems, and windows and opaque envelope products. Independent of adoption behavior, performance improvements windows and opaque envelope technologies (e.g., air sealing and insulation) offer the greatest potential energy savings, an estimated 6 quads. These technologies are generally costly or inappropriate for retrofit applications, however, limiting their actual energy use reduction potential. Overall, lighting technology improvements yield the lowest cost energy savings, due in large part to their longer lifetimes, which significantly reduce their total life cycle costs compared to baseline lighting technologies. In forthcoming updates, Scout will support evaluation of packages of measures to determine whether combining complementary technologies could yield additional energy savings. The source code and input files for Scout are available online for use by researchers who wish to estimate the energy use impacts of novel or emerging building efficiency products.