Tracking Aggregate Gas Use in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Aggregate energy consumption data is a valuable resource for energy researchers, regulators, and utilities alike. Our office has used it for a number of years to track historic use trends, to periodically recalibrate our perceptions of what constitutes "typical" use, and as a pseudo-control in program evaluations for which a true matched control was not feasible within our time and budget constraints.

Aggregate data should be widely available to researchers since large utilities have a number of reasons of their own for generating and saving it. Some utilities may have to collect it by geographic areas because of differing fee and tax structures in the various cities or states they serve. They will probably also break it down by types of customers (or by rate classes, which hopefully will have a useful correlation with customer types) in order to fully document rate cases to be heard by their regu¬latory body. Both types of breakdowns are useful to the utilities themselves for modelling sales efforts by sector and for predicting future levels of demand. Given these factors it is likely that researchers can obtain data on the area and market segment of particular interest to them.

Once obtained, aggregate data must be weather normalized, since year to year changes are largely driven by weather variations and can be of a sufficient magnitude (up to ±13%) to totally con¬found any efforts to measure background use trends or program effects. Fortunately this adjustment can easily be done using standard methods, in particular the Princeton University PRISM program.

This paper presents our results from analyzing the past 12 years of residential gas use for Minneapolis, Minnesota, and it also compares our results with earlier results from 20 years of New Jersey data (Fels and Goldberg 1986, and Cathy Reynolds, personal communication) and 14 years of St. Louis, Missouri data (Rufo et al 1988, and Rufo and Brambley 1989). We hope to encourage more people to perform aggregate use analyses as well as to impart some of our hard-won knowledge of how to make such analyses as reliable and fruitful as possible. 

Full report (PDF)
Tracking Aggregate Gas Use in Minneapolis, Minnesota