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Research and Development

The Energy Data Management Guide is a product of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that provides public-sector organizations with a seven-step approach to establish a robust and sustainable energy data management program. The guide focuses on proven practices that can be replicated to produce positive results across diverse organizations.

The organizations included in this guide represent a variety of sizes, staff and financial resources, and geographic distributions, highlighting the applicability of these practices to organizations of all types. For example, some proven practices are from small cities with limited resources and staff; however, all of these entities share common goals for achieving cost reductions, greater energy efficiency, and accountability in day-to-day operations.

Because this guide focuses on proven strategies, it does not present innovative or emerging practices currently being developed by public-sector organizations.


A number of organizations interviewed for this guide are partners with DOE on the Better Buildings® Challenge, a voluntary leadership program to reduce building energy use by 20% within 10 years. As part of this commitment, organizations are annually sharing facility-level energy use data for entire portfolios of buildings. In some cases, partners are also including additional energy using assets, such as streetlights and water and wastewater treatment plants. As of June 2019, the Better Buildings Challenge partners featured in this guide demonstrated average annual energy savings of approximately 2% and an average cumulative energy improvement of 14% compared to their respective baseline years.

Primary Research

The proven practices identified in this guide are based on primary research performed from 2013–2014 through in-depth interviews with more than 80 individuals from states, local governments, K-12 school districts, and industry experts from the federal government, private sector, and nongovernmental organizations. As a followup to these interviews, DOE conducted additional research and stakeholder engagement to further inform and refine the guide. In many instances, practitioners provided data and other materials to illustrate their approaches and evidence supporting their results.

Interviewees included:

  • State energy office representatives from 10 states
  • Sustainability and energy managers from 25 local governments
    • 13 large cities (portfolios of >120 buildings or >5 million sq. ft.)
    • Seven medium-sized cities and counties (portfolios between 50-120 buildings or 1-4 million sq. ft.)
    • Five small cities and counties (portfolios of < 50 buildings and <1.6 million sq. ft.)
  • Sustainability and energy managers from 5 K-12 school districts
  • 19 industry experts from the federal government, private sector, and nongovernmental organizations.

Analysis of the strategies and solutions included examination of the relationships among various factors, such as organizational size, structure, and utility landscape. Where possible, the size of the organization and its resources, staff, and budgetary constraints were addressed in order to provide proven practices to as diverse an audience as possible.


DOE used the following criteria to select a given strategy and/or solution as a proven practice:


  • The strategy and/or solution was successfully replicated by many practitioners.
  • The strategy and/or solution was feasible—not too complex, expensive, or otherwise economically prohibitive.
  • The strategy and/or solution can be described and segmented into clear steps for implementation.


  • The strategy and/or solution was previously validated by many practitioners.
  • The strategy and/or solution generated benefits that justify the initial and ongoing investment in cost.
  • The strategy and/or solution generated qualitative and quantitative benefits to the organization.


  • Benefits of the strategy and/or solution were sustainable over the long term, resulting in continued buy-in from decision makers.


  • The strategy and/or solution addressed barriers to adopting energy efficiency practices.
  • The strategy and/or solution could be extended to other sectors and organizations.


DOE developed metrics to compare and rank proven practices on their level of effectiveness. A principal metric used was the energy and cost savings realized as a result of energy data management. Where applicable, secondary metrics were also used and include resource savings, operational efficiency, and time savings, such as:

  • Non-energy-related cost savings from utility bill analysis (e.g., reduction in utility bills due to a reduction of billing errors, late fees, and so on)
  • Behavioral changes (e.g., staff engagement and compliance with energy tracking and savings initiatives)
  • Reduced time to diagnose energy waste and anomalies identified during energy data review and analysis
  • More efficient operations that leverage resources and avoid redundancy in staff time and data entry and processing.