Topic Resources

Tools Used
Initiated By
  •  Duke Energy
  • Building Operators

Duke Energy's Smart Energy in Offices Program

Duke Energy's Smart Energy in Offices program (SEiO) is one of the few behavioral programs targeting energy savings opportunities in large commercial office buildings. It encourages energy savings from improved energy efficient building operations and maintenance practices, and also from improved tenant and employee energy management and conservation practices.


Note: To minimize site maintenance costs, all case studies on this site are written in the past tense, even if they are ongoing as is the case with this particular program. 

While there are many case studies of residential behavioral programs for reducing energy use, there are relatively few that target energy savings opportunities in large commercial office buildings.

SEiO built upon the insights and lessons learned from its predecessor, the Smart Energy Now pilot program, which was implemented in the Charlotte, NC uptown area in 2011-2013. The Smart Energy Now pilot evaluation showed average net savings impacts on the order of 3.8%.

Getting Informed

See background section. SEiO built upon the insights and lessons learned from its predecessor, the Smart Energy Now pilot program.

Delivering the Program

The SEiO behavioral program targeted the occupants, owners or property management, and operators within eligible commercial office buildings in the Duke Energy Carolinas service territory. Eligible buildings had at least 10,000 square feet of floor area, with at least 50% of floor area dedicated to office space. The program’s enrollment in 2017 was comprised of more than 190 buildings with more than 30 million square feet of office space, located across five metropolitan areas in North and South Carolina.

Building Operators

SEiO placed a major focus on resources to engage and support building operators including access to interval data, tools for automated energy performance benchmarking, an ongoing series of action challenges targeting building maintenance and operations best practices, as well as peer forum events and an annual awards ceremony where participants are recognized for their achievements with the program. Targeted behaviors could be as simple as remembering to turn off lights and computer monitors when not in use and as advanced as adjusting chiller sequencing and controls to optimize building cooling efficiency. (Competitions; Feedback and Recognition; Norm Appeals)

One of the main barriers was a lack of participant building staff resources to implement program actions. In addition, some property and facility managers were entrenched in routines, focused on tenant comfort, keeping their buildings running, etc., and were less focused on other activities that could enhance their buildings' energy performance. To address this the SEiO implementation team established a clear education plan to ensure customers understood the expectations around engagement in the program. Participants had to see that the program was not there to ask more of them, but rather to help them get an important job done. The program also highlighted how the time spent on engagement yielded benefits beyond energy savings. (Vivid, Personalized, Credible, Empowering Communication.)


SEiO also empowered property managers to engage their tenants and educate them about simple changes to their daily routines which could add up to big energy consumption savings. 

On-the-Ground Support

Following initial enrollment, SEiO provided on-the-ground support for targeted building operator and tenant employee action challenges. 

Because some tenant companies within participating buildings might not be interested in energy saving challenges and/or might not see the direct, personal benefit, SEiO also provided challenge/campaign activities and messaging to appeal to individual values (e.g. fostering a cleaner environment for the benefit of the community and future generations), and made participation fun and social. (Building Engagement Over Time; Vivid, Personalized, Credible, Empowering Communication)

A comprehensive online (mobile and desktop) platform engaged participants, provided feedback (e.g. hourly usage data), facilitated automated energy performance benchmarking, and displayed program milestone achievements toward annual recognition awards. In addition, customers could view energy saving campaigns occurring in their building to reduce energy usage.(Building Engagement Over Time, Obtaining a Commitment, Feedback and Recognition, Competition).

SEiO provided normalized information on building performance for program participants, aggregate community energy performance and details on energy saving activities performed in their building.

Most program activity was organized around challenges. These challenges activated new patterns of energy use behavior, raised awareness and communicated shared values. The challenges also fostered one-time actions and commitments that could lead to sustained energy impacts. SEiO provided trainings, videos, networking and other communications about reducing energy use through the challenges. (Challenges)

Continuous Improvement and Targeted Expansion

The SEiO program operates on a continuous improvement model. In 2017, the team was in the process of seeking commission approval for a Smart Energy in Healthcare pilot, motivated by the interest and support of the largest hospital system providers in the territory. This program expansion coincided with the development of automated measurement and valuation capabilities that gave customers a real-time gauge of energy savings impacts contributed by program-related activities and other building interventions.

Measuring Achievements

Program impacts were verified by an independent third-party program evaluator (Opinion Dynamics, along with subcontractor EMI). 

The program impact and process evaluation studies are due to be finalized by the fall of 2017. The evaluation included site-specific time series analyses of customer billing data to estimate gross energy savings at the building level for each participant. Analyses also controlled for weather, time, and changes in occupation or operation, to identify coincident changes in energy consumption for each participating building. The evaluation will identify what is referred to as an attribution rate, accounting for free-ridership (i.e., non-program) influences and adjusting measured gross savings impacts to a net savings impact. Additionally, savings associated with concurrent utility program participation, such as incentivized hard measure installations (e.g., lighting system replacements, HVAC equipment upgrades) will be subtracted from net savings impacts to avoid double counting of savings.


SEiO provided feedback and recognition in the following ways.

  • An annual awards ceremony
  • A comprehensive online platform with hourly usage data, that facilitated automated energy performance benchmarking, and displayed program milestone achievements toward the annual recognition awards
  • Automated measurement and valuation capabilities that gave customers a real-time gauge of energy savings impacts contributed by program-related activities and other building interventions


The current SEiO program’s third-party impact and process evaluation studies are due to be completed by the third quarter of 2017. The findings from this impact and process evaluation will be added to this case study as soon as they are available.

Early results from the current impact evaluation show that not only have savings persisted for customers enrolled in the initial pilot program, but that additional savings are being realized.

Between the fall of 2014 and the fall of 2017, the program team enrolled more than 35,000,000 square feet of office space in more than 215 distinct buildings and more than 250 unique Duke Energy accounts. Tailoring the program to particular audience segments and restructuring campaigns/challenges based on the needs of our participants led to a 471% growth in the number of individual energy savings actions taken between program years one and two.

On an individual customer level, we have seen multiple instances of findings from program assessment activities that have resulted in double-digit energy savings impacts. 


Julie Hyde,  Program Manager, Smart Energy in Offices, Duke Energy
(407) 765-3963


  • Having a community-based educational institution partner, in this case the University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNCC), provided a unique win-win where building operators receive additional resources to identify efficiency opportunities through their building automation systems at no cost while students gain real world experience and mentorship applying to their academic subject matter. This relationship was initiated in 2015 via Envision Charlotte’s partnership with UNCC, enabled by a grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE). Using the DOE-generated processes and tools, UNCC developed an advisory service designed to help those in the commercial real estate field to identify energy savings opportunities. This service included detailed building assessments, including analysis of building automation data point trends (e.g., temperature, pressure, valve/damper position, etc.) that most operators do not have the time to perform.

    Given the commonality of the goals between the Envision Charlotte/UNCC initiative and SEiO, in the spring of 2016, SEiO launched its partnership with UNCC as well. Meanwhile, UNCC students receive the opportunity to gain real world experience in downtown Charlotte office buildings.
  • Go to for a customer experience testimonial video that highlights various participant success stories, in addition to archived program materials, news and events.

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