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Prioritization Tool

For optimal performance, BTO seeks to closely link its portfolio of resources to its strategies and planning process.  BTO has developed the Prioritization Tool to provide analytical support for its programmatic decision-making and to further accelerate the transformation of the U.S. building energy efficiency sector. Rigorous analysis of the diverse project portfolio provides guidance to more effectively meet program goals.


Prioritization Tool

BTO’s vision was to develop a comprehensive analytical tool that assesses and compares a variety of available building-related energy efficient technologies and activities, and projects their potential value in future years. Specifically, the tool is designed to assist BTO in:

  • Informing programmatic decision-making
  • Identifying opportunities, gaps, and challenges
  • Facilitating setting programmatic goals
  • Creating targets for future projects and solicitations, such as Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs)
  • Conducting sensitivity analyses and examining "what if" scenarios of pursuing investment in R&D and deployment of potentially competing energy efficiency measures.

Analytical Planning

BTO designed the Prioritization Tool to inform, but not form, decision-making. BTO does not consider the Prioritization Tool’s inputs and outputs to be final results, and investment decisions are not made solely based on its outputs. Rather, the Prioritization Tool’s outputs are taken into consideration during the decision-making process, and it is one of many resources that BTO uses to help make investment decisions. BTO uses the Tool’s analytical capabilities to compare and contrast potential long-term national energy savings and costs of technologies receiving BTO funding with other technologies and opportunities available in the marketplace. The Tool also helps BTO identify and assess the potential of new investment opportunities. Specifically, it aims to identify high impact technologies with the potential for significant market adoption and energy savings for the nation, and opportunities for BTO to reduce end-user technology costs and improve performance. The Tool also provides BTO with another avenue to analyze how its R&D projects, deployment activities and roadmap goals fit within the context of a portfolio of a large number of competing energy savings opportunities.


Developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as a Microsoft Excel®-based analytical tool, the BTO Prioritization Tool is intended to be: 

  • Comprehensive in including most known measures proven to save energy; 
  • Inclusive of any measure with laboratory demonstrated, field tested, or analytically derived (with peer review) savings;
  • Objective in integrating inputs from hundreds of sources and expert reviews. 

The energy efficiency measures captured in the Prioritization Tool cover a spectrum of market opportunities, in both residential and commercial buildings, new and existing buildings, as well as industrial and outdoor applications. Currently, the Tool contains data on over 500 energy efficiency measures and their markets, and has the capability to perform extensive analyses using a number of established methodologies for calculating energy savings potential and end-user costs of conserved energy associated with each measure. For more information on the methodologies underlying the Prioritization Tool’s analytical capabilities please refer to the Key Resources section.

Current Status

BTO continuously seeks to expand and improve upon the information contained in the Prioritization Tool. Starting in 2012, BTO conducted peer reviews of the Tool’s measures and outputs among experts within DOE, national laboratories, industry and contractors, which has resulted in improved accuracy of measure inputs as well as the addition of new measures. To further improve the Tool’s accuracy, a Request for Information (DE-FOA-0001024) was published in 2013 to solicit comments and recommendations on inputs, assumptions and output data for measures evaluated in the Tool, and to seek data on new measures that could be added to the Tool with the potential for significant national energy savings.

BTO envisions ongoing updates and improvements to the Tool through future stakeholder interactions and Requests for Information. In the future, BTO will release the Prioritization Tool to the public, so that others might use it to inform decision-making within an organization where understanding the potential value of a proposed building efficiency solution is particularly attractive. BTO plans to convert the developmental version of the Tool to a format suitable for use by a broader audience, and will release it when the conversion is complete.

Recommend Data Updates and Improvements

BTO encourages stakeholders to recommend updates and improvements to the Prioritization Tool. Please use this Excel-based Measure Input form to recommend changes and additions. Please provide peer-reviewed, published literature and data references for all proposed changes and new measures. BTO will only consider recommended changes and additions that are substantiated by published, verifiable references. While BTO will consider all recommendations that include the required information, BTO will implement recommendations at its own discretion.

You may use the Measure Input form to look up data for many measures in the Prioritization Tool’s database. Please read the directions outlined in the light blue text box in the Measure Input tab, and refer to comments associated with each input cell for further definitions and clarifications.

For some measures, performance and cost impacts are based on percent savings or incremental cost relative to a baseline unit that is not explicitly specified in the form. Depending on the measure of interest, the Prioritization tool determines performance and cost impacts relative to a baseline unit, defined either as 1) a typical unit installed in homes or buildings across the United States or in a specific region; or 2) a technology associated with the minimum federal conservation standard or building code adopted in a specific region; or 3) a typical unit currently available on the market. The last two types of baseline units are usually applicable to measures that are impacting new construction, technologies that have been eliminated by federal energy conservation standards or building codes, or technologies that may not have a federal conservation standard. For measures that do not have an explicitly specified baseline unit, you may use the following documents to identify the most applicable baseline unit and its performance and cost metrics: EIA Technology Forecasts 2011, 2012, or 2013 (coming soon). 

Please direct questions and/or completed measure input forms to .

Key Resources

For more detailed description of the methodologies, outputs, caveats, and functions, as well as for further background and overview of the Tool, refer to the following publications:

  1. Farese, P, Gelman, R, & Hendron, R, 2012, “A Tool to Prioritize Energy Efficiency Investments,” National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Technical Report: NREL/TP-6A20-54799."
  2. Abdelaziz, O, Farese, P, Abramson, A, & Phelan, P, 2013, “Technology Prioritization: Transforming the U.S. Building Stock to Embrace Energy Efficiency,” Cleantech Conference & Showcase 2013. TechConnect World. U.S. Department of Energy. May 12-16.
  3. Farese, P, 2012, “Technology: How to Build a Low Energy Future,” Nature 488, pp. 275-277.