As many of our members know, in 2011, E Source “webified” DSMdat—a database of more than 3,000 demand-side management (DSM) programs in the U.S. and Canada. We completed the transition to a fully web-based interface in May, and we’ve spent the past eight months updating the information in the database (as we do every year). The yearly update is quite an undertaking and we’ve still got a few more updates to go before the process begins again for 2012. As the DSMdat product coordinator, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share the processes behind DSMdat, E Source’s most visited website and one of our most utilized resources.
In 2011, the DSMdat website received more than 3,500 page views. That may not sound like a lot (especially in comparison to say, BBC’s Funny Talking Animals, which receives millions of views), but it’s a lot for a subscription-only database about DSM programs. Before DSMdat was fully web-based, the greatest number of page views was around 50, so I’d say we’re moving in the right direction!
To put it simply, maintaining DSMdat is a behemoth of a project. Right now, there are 2,668 active programs, 609 inactive programs, and about 100 programs that are in review, which means that they’ll be showing up in your search results soon.
In 2011, we reviewed more than 2,000 programs and added about 600*. So how exactly do we go about updating and adding all these programs? The DSMdat team spends the greater part of the year scouring DSM program sponsor web pages and comparing the programs they find to the programs in our database. When we update a program, we check the program’s time frame, the incentive amounts, and the procedures for participation. We also verify that the links to program websites are functioning and that the program is correctly “tagged” based on our taxonomy. The tags help ensure that searches are accurate and provide comprehensive results.
Though this may seem straightforward, updating the programs can be complicated and ultimately it takes time—a lot of time. To find and add a brand new program to the database takes, on average, 45 minutes. Updating an existing program takes an average of 30 minutes. We’re continually finding ways to improve our efficiency, but there are a variety of factors that contribute to the amount of time it takes to update or add a program.
For example, regarding the scope of the program, are we talking about a simple residential appliance rebate program or a complicated commercial program with five preliminary steps and tens or possibly hundreds of rebates? Many states differ in how they implement DSM programs; some states utilize a statewide DSM program administrator, yet provide different rebate levels based on the customer’s energy provider. Sometimes a utility adds a new DSM measure to its portfolio for which we haven’t yet developed taxonomy. Or what looks like five separate programs to a utility customer may actually be a single program from the utility’s standpoint, and we have to figure out the best way to represent it.
In 2011, we also introduced charts and tables to DSMdat. This feature increases the time it takes to input program data, but it also makes viewing the data easier. For instance, in the past, the chart below would have been a presented as a text list, but now we’re able to provide formatted tables.
Yes, all that web surfing can lead to crossed eyes, sore fingers, and efficiency-program overload, but it helps us keep a finger on the pulse of the DSM program industry. So for 2012, look for our monthly DSMdat blog posts highlighting notable programs, introducing new filters, and discussing DSM programs in general.
If you ever have any questions about what’s going on behind the scenes of DSMdat (because I’m sure you’re bubbling over with curiosity), let me know. Or if you want to tell me about an innovative program that you’ve seen or that you’re implementing, do it! I’m eager to hear about the up-and-coming and I’m an efficiency nerd, so if you can save me the search time, I’d certainly appreciate it.
Here’s your January DSMdat update:
Number of programs reviewed: 392
Number of programs added: 31
*Although the number of programs added in 2011 may seem like a lot, keep in mind that some of these may not actually be brand new. As programs evolve, it’s often necessary to create an entirely new entry instead of updating the previous iteration. Or it’s possible that we split up one large commercial program into, say, five commercial programs, to allow for greater granularity when searching. This happens somewhat regularly, so I like to focus on the number reviewed, not the number added.