I recently played laser tag at an amusement park with my two sons. While I would have been happy to report that I beat all the competition, alas, the little score counter plate on my chest told a very different story (as did the smug smile on my eight-year-old who had been a chief adversary).

We relate to scores all the time. They can be applied in contexts ranging from silly to serious, but they are united by a common theme: A score’s structure tells the story of what is being valued. When a score or metric is well structured, it can play a key role lighting the way toward the highest level goals in a business or industry. It can provide powerful and direct feedback regarding progress along the way and can potentially highlight specific spots in need of revision or revamping. Scores themselves may also need review and revision when old goals have been met or when the policy or business environment has changed.

Metrics of success for utility energy efficiency programs that are structured in the right ways can be an illustration of this process. For example, with a growing number of jurisdictions trying to meet quantitative greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, including an indicator of overall energy consumption reduction into the score for programs may provide valuable feedback on which programs are advancing policy goals most powerfully. A well-structured score can help integrate energy efficiency programs optimally with other distributed energy resources to meet grid needs and policy goals.

Itron [Consulting & Analysis] has developed a new metric for scoring the effectiveness of utility energy efficiency programs that serves as a yardstick of program achievements directly in line with goals for deep greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions. Developed in the context of California’s nonresidential portfolio, the Depth of Retrofit – Cost-effectiveness (DORCE, pronounced “dor-see”) metric combines indicators of cost-effectiveness with indicators of how deeply a program reaches across energy end uses for participating customers into a single metric. It can be adapted to residential sector programs and to other states or regions concerned with deep greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

The score addresses a need unfilled by other cost-effectiveness tests such as the Total Resource Cost test (TRC), which tend to reward low cost measures that leave much of the potential savings in a given building untouched. The DORCE score, by contrast, scores programs on energy savings relative to total consumption and the diversity of end uses and technologies addressed to achieve those reductions.

The DORCE score is built on seven metrics that each measure some aspect of a program’s depth of savings or cost-effectiveness, combined into a single composite metric based on underlying correlations in the data. In addition to reflecting program achievements in a single score aligned with GHG reduction objectives, the DORCE metric retains the standalone indicators of cost-effectiveness and depth of savings achievements that serve as drivers of the overall score. This multi-faceted structure enables detailed comparison of performance among peer programs, as well as precise targeting and goal setting along one or more elements of the score.

Itron also built regression models to measure the degree to which various elements of a program’s design, such as its target sector or distribution of customer sizes, for example, correlate with high or low DORCE scores. These can be used for a detailed review of how various specific program design elements have historically correlated with effectiveness outcomes.

Findings from developing and using DORCE can be used to evaluate program performance through a lens aligned with deep greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. They can also inform the potential use of the DORCE metric as a forward-looking tool in a program planning and savings targeting context. Key findings highlight particular customer segments and program design approaches where notably high achievements are observed for cost-effectiveness, depth of savings, or both.

More information about the DORCE index can be found in this four-page brochure.