Sometimes when I sit back and consider all the things that need to be done, I feel overwhelmed. The endless demands for regular work—like producing the annual forecast and monthly weather—get coupled with new requests for solar adoption forecasts, electric vehicle research and creatively using AMI data. This can create a big, hazy blur like this statue I saw in Austin during this year’s Energy Forecasting Group (EFG) Meeting.

From April 24 to 27, 76 participants from 49 companies met in Austin for the EFG meeting, creating the largest gathering of energy forecasters in North America. This year’s meeting included 15 industry presentations, two round tables and two pre-conference workshops covering a range of topics including (but not limited to) the following:

  • National and regional economic outlook
  • 2018 annual energy outlook and energy trends
  • Overview of the EV market
  • Levering AMI data for analysis
  • Developing Monte Carlo simulations
  • Modeling solar and battery storage

While it’s difficult to isolate a single highlight, below are a few of my favorite activities from the event:

  1. Dueling Economic Vendors. Technically, they weren’t dueling. In two separate presentations, Steve Cochrane of Moody’s Analytics and Martin Holdrich of Woods & Poole discussed the overall economic picture we use to drive our forecasts. Steve focused on the signs for the end of the “late stage expansion,” and Martin did a deep dive into the calculation of Gross Regional Product. Together, these presentations showed a picture of the future and how economists know what they know.
  2. Weather Normalization Puzzle. Matt Croucher and Jacque Windle of Entergy shared their weather normalization puzzle and solution. In this presentation, they challenged our assumptions that weather data is unbiased and inherently trustworthy. By unraveling the mystery of a one-year sales decline, Matt and Jacque managed a lively discussion about weather stations raising the following questions: Should you use one, two or more stations?; Is there an optimal weather station weighting scheme?: Are airport weather stations more reliable?
  3. Real Engineering. Austin Energy gave attendees a treat with a cooling plant tour. For all the economic and statistical modeling that we do, it is easy to forget the hard assets that sit behind the words “air conditioning,” “power plant” and “energy efficiency programs.” The cooling plant tour showed how Austin Energy efficiently distributes chilled water to its customer’s buildings through a set of heat exchangers for cooling. Walking under massive pipe, on top of a large ice tank, and next to giant pumps reminded me that our work is not just about writing numbers on paper (or a computer), but it is helping companies efficiently provide energy and services to people across North America.

After three days of listening, learning and discussing forecasting issues, I found the blur of my regular days becoming clearer. Just like the statue, stopping and closely examining each issue changes the blur into hundreds of individual and interconnected bicycles that are obscured from a distance. Taking the time to consider each challenge often provides clarity where it wasn’t before.

What were your highlights from this year’s meeting? Let us know in the comment section below.






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Mark Quan
Principal Forecast Consultant - Itron
Mark Quan is a Principal Forecast Consultant with Itron’s Forecasting Division. Since joining Itron in 1997, Quan has specialized in both short-term and long-term energy forecasting solutions as well as load research projects. Quan has developed and implemented several automated forecasting systems to predict next day system demand, load profiles, and retail consumption for companies throughout the United States and Canada. Short-term forecasting solutions include systems for the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). Long-term forecasting solutions include developing and supporting the long-term forecasts of sales and customers for clients such as Dairyland Power and Omaha Public Power District. These forecasts include end-use information and demand-side management impacts in an econometric framework. Finally, Quan has been involved in implementing Load Research systems such as at Snohomish PUD. Prior to joining Itron, Quan worked in the gas, electric, and corporate functions at Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), where he was involved in industry restructuring, electric planning, and natural gas planning. Quan received an M.S. in Operations Research from Stanford University and a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from the University of California at Los Angeles.