Overcoming Regulatory Hurdles with Automated QA
OptiMiser partnered with Arizona Public Service (APS) to deliver an energy auditing software solution for their Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program. OptiMiser technology facilitates the energy audit process, calculates accurate costs and savings, and allows APS to generate and export reports to track rebates, energy savings, and audit data.
Powerful and accurate energy analysis
One challenge facing the APS program was the demanding Arizona climate. The program needed to ensure that home audit energy analysis would account for the specific climate factors facing their customers. To achieve this, APS leveraged OptiMiser’s full analytic power, including hourly modeling of critical savings. OptiMiser’s modeling methodology applies household utility bill data to auto-calibrate usage and savings estimates. The result: accurate results, more accurate than extensive measurements of a home and arbitrary“truing up” to utility bills. OptiMiser’s analysis has passed the industry’s most demanding standards, including BESTEST, RESNET, and BPI-2400.
Automated HPXML Data Handling, Error Trapping and Validation
APS also needed a means to reliably collect data from field audits securely and with minimal data loss. To achieve this, they implemented the OptiMiser ePortal. This technology streamlined the audit process by allowing the program to deliver and retrieve files to and from auditors in the field, while ensuring file outputs are complete and correct.
This data handling process not only lightened the data handling load for the program, but also made the audit process more automated and productive for home performance contractors, saving them the time and hassle of repeat submissions. OptiMiser created an automated system to notify contractors of any problems during HPXML generation. This system captured errors during HPXML creation and verified that the resulting HPXML file passed standard validation tests (i.e., complied with HPXML specifications). If there were any errors or the HPXML file didn’t pass validation, an issue would be created automatically in the OptiMiser bug tracking system, and emails sent to programmers working on HPXML. This allowed OptiMiser to respond rapidly and quickly work with contractors to resolve any issues that arose.
APS needed to be sure not only that HPXML was structurally valid, but also that audit outputs would meet the regulatory and incentive requirements specific to the APS program. The solution that OptiMiser built for APS included a custom QA/QC process to meet this need.
The OptiMiser QA/QC system automatically:
- checked audit and data against program requirements unique to the APS program
- alerted contractors of any requirements where the audit is out of compliance
- described changes required for compliance
- provided a hyperlink to jump to the inputs where the contractor could correct the issue
With this system, APS and its participating contractors could be confident that the HPXML generated not only was structurally correct, but could be ensured to comply with APS requirements. For example, for APS we provided over 150 checks for CAZ data entry, duct measurement, and customer and utility information.
APS Rate Structures Pre-Loaded
The program also had to accommodate a number of APS-specific electricity rate structures. To achieve this, OptiMiser added a custom module to support computation of savings based on these structures. With the ability to select specific rate structures, the appropriate rate structure would be automatically loaded into the model, allowing all cost and savings calculations to be based on the selected rates.
This feature allowed contractors to more accurately estimate energy savings from improvement measures as well as show clients the impact of switching to a different APS rate structure.
Automated form filling and report generation
The APS version of OptiMiser was customized to allow for generation of the forms required for incentives and compliance. The software created the forms, with auto-populated fields based on OptiMiser inputs. At completion, the forms could be signed electronically by the homeowner or contractor on any tablet. The result was a PDF form produced electronically from OptiMiser, completely filled out, signed, and ready to submit to APS, without printing or scanning.
OptiMiser also generated a colorful and informative report that met 100% of APS’s reporting requirements and completed the review process so contractors would have a pre-approved report meeting all requirements without additions or editing. This report would be provided to customers at the conclusion of the audit, providing ample informative and graphically-engaging material for the homeowner.