Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA Member Spotlight

Energy Atlas

As the effects of climate change continue to reveal themselves, addressing California’s day-to-day energy use is inevitable. Buildings, in particular, use large amounts of energy. Energy efficiency improvements for buildings have lasting impacts on energy bills, the community, and the environment.  Right now, local governments and their partners are unable to access energy data from buildings to facilitate their climate action planning and to determine energy waste in their community. The following LGSEC Member Spotlight of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, showcases a unique and advanced energy data database to help local governments and their partner improve energy efficiency in buildings.

Goal:

Energy Atlas is an interactive website containing a map, table/profiles, analysis and strategies to evaluate the energy consumption of building types in the County of Los Angeles. Energy Atlas provides the public with accurate energy data pertaining to building usage. 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the County of Los Angeles come from buildings.

Energy Consumption is estimated by analyzing socio-demographic characteristics sourced from Census data, surrounding climate, building attributes (type, age, use, energy type, GHG emissions) and other variables to assess how varied building types contribute to pollution in the area. Local governments can use this data to identify operations (schools, municipal buildings, etc.) within their communities where energy can be reduced. This data can also inform policy decisions and help California reach its energy goals. The Energy Atlas team also generates customized reports beyond the tools on the website for local governments wanting to focus on particular issues in the greater Los Angeles area.

Energy Data Access:

Energy Atlas is providing the nation with the largest set of downloadable, disaggregated energy data that is typically difficult to access due to privacy laws. This privately networked back-end data contains a historical time series of monthly electricity, natural gas, and water billing data from over 27 million of utility accounts in Southern California. Because UCLA is a public research institution, legally they can receive consumer energy data from local Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) under a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and some local Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) including LADWP, Glendale, and Burbank.  

In an effort to assist local governments access detailed aggregated energy consumption information, the Energy Atlas team has successfully formatted and unified mismatching data to make it anonymous, usable, and consistent so that cities can finally have accurate and actionable data to integrate into their climate action goals and GHG reduction targets. The front-end web tool provides city profiles containing aggregated consumption information organized by building use type, building size, and building vintage while maintaining individual customer privacy. This data provides local governments the tools to generate reliable greenhouse gas accounting, energy efficiency program targets, grant and proposal data requirements, energy disclosure ordinances, program and investment tracking, grid planning (adaptation and future resiliency), and research and development.

Funding:

Energy Atlas is funded by the Southern California Regional Energy Network (SoCal REN) through SoCal Edison ratepayers, the County of Los Angeles’ Office of Sustainability, and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP).

Progress:

Energy Atlas continues to provide creative solutions to increase energy data transparency while respecting current data-privacy restrictions. For local governments and planners, this tool has demonstrated the importance and value of a comprehensive and account-level data to link with contextual datasets. Energy Atlas data has been successfully used in climate action planning/GHG inventories for Gateway Cities Council of Governments and all member cities as well as energy efficiency program planning in the County of Ventura.

By analyzing the highly populated County of Los Angeles, the data shows that affluent areas use significant energy per capita while lower-income areas use the same amount of energy for more people, revealing that energy consumption is less efficient in lower-income communities. The high energy rates in lower-income communities are often sourced from the use of high-demand appliances and the lack of access to energy-efficient products, while more affluent areas contain large, high energy-demanding structures used by less people. UCLA has been a leader in the movement to use real, ground-up, data for informed decision-making, proving that disaggregated energy data is not only useful, but also critical for California to collectively reach its climate energy goals. See Figure 1 below.

Brentwood has a population of 32,540 people with a median income of $132,912 and has a total consumption of 2.32 BTU. Compared to East LA where the population is 125,606 people with a median income of $37,700 and has a total consumption of 2.44 BTU.

Future of the Program:

Atlas 2.0 is expected to launch in the summer of 2018 and will include expanded data for Los Angeles County*, as well as data for 5 additional counties: Ventura*, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, and Imperial. The backend data is continually updated with new data layers.

LGSEC is seeking to expand the Energy Atlas statewide to PG&E and SDG&E territories. With the CPUC’s recent decision to use rate-payer energy efficiency funds to expand the Atlas, significant and meaningful strides in energy data and information availability for all IOU territories within the state may become a reality.

Program Partners:

Key organizations that have contributed to Energy Atlas include the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC) and The Energy Coalition (TEC)*.

*LGSEC member

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