Monthly Archives: August 2013

International Energy Program Evaluation Conference

America’s Second City, Chicago, hosted the 2013 International Energy Program Evaluation Conference. Opinion Dynamics Project Analysts, Latisha Younger-Canon and Jessica Spanier, were first-time attendees to the conference.  They had a blast learning more about the energy evaluation industry as a whole and how our work fits into the broader picture.  In addition, they took in the fun aspects of the conference – the Opinion Dynamics reception, the boat cruise on the Chicago River/Lake Michigan, and using the IEPEC conference app! 

View of the Chicago skyline from the boat cruise

View of the Chicago skyline from the boat cruise

Fierce and engaging debate. Many of the papers presented at IEPEC sparked fierce and engaging debate regarding the quality of the research as well as the impact of the findings on the future of our industry.

This was especially the case in the conference’s “Quick Takes” sessions, where speakers only had seven minutes to present their project’s background, methodological approach, and findings. One of the most entertaining sessions was Wednesday’s “Producing, Measuring, and Claiming Savings from Residential Feedback, Home Energy Audit, and Behavior Change Programs.” This session provided the audience with a rapid dissemination of research and thoroughly engaged the audience in a discussion of measuring and claiming savings from residential feedback and related behavior change programs.

One of the most educational sessions of the conference certainly was Wednesday’s “Net Savings Evaluation – Getting it Right: It’s More than a Couple of Questions on a Participant or Market Survey” session. The session focused much of its time debating how to set the baseline for estimating net savings, whether it be the application of current practice baseline or applying more general, uniform approaches. A vibrant exchange of opinions on the issue followed the panelists’ presentations succeeding in encouraging the audience to consider their approaches to managing net savings and spillover effects in their own work.

Clever approaches and applications. One of the best takeaways from IEPEC was the accessibility and applicability of research methods and evaluation plan approaches presented by conference speakers.

Wednesday’s session on “Smart Data: A Myriad of Uses” highlighted the increasing availability of “big data” and its practical applications in the energy industry.  The increased installation of smart meters increases the likelihood we’ll be dealing with these types of data more and more, and the uses of these data are endless – from investigating the reliability of load switch controls to how much energy your toaster uses!

During Thursday’s “Process Evaluation: Real Time Strategies that Work” session, authors used first-hand experience to illustrate best practices in developing strategies to reach participants, methods to dig into multiple programs, in addition to acknowledging the reality of process evaluation work where sometimes barriers emerge that are truly unexpected, but require swift and effective action. This session was not only informative, but highly useful to evaluators and partner clients alike.

Evaluating the evaluators?  As we’re engaging in a review of work done by others, it’s important to step back and cast a critical eye on our own methods. This practice of “metaevaluation” – evaluating the evaluation – was discussed in Wednesday’s “Harmonization of Evaluation Practices: The Hidden Pathway to Greater Energy Efficiency.” A discussion of what to include vs. not include in evaluations followed, including support of transparency of evaluation practices.  This session was great at emphasizing the importance of documenting everything!

Thanks to IEPEC for hosting a great conference, and we hope to attend IEPEC 2014 in Berlin!