U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Energy Analysis

Program Evaluation: Program Life Cycle

In general, different types of evaluation are carried out over different parts of a program's life cycle (e.g., Creating a program, Program is underway, or Closing out or end of program). Accommodating EERE, DOE, and OMB requirements (where they exist), the following table illustrates where in the program life cycle the EERE offices should plan or consider doing an evaluation.

The table below indicates when a program can benefit from different types of evaluation.

Program Life Cycle Stage Recommended Type of Program Evaluation

Creating a program

Baseline and Market Needs Assessment:
conducted before the program is initiated. This assessment will contribute to program effectiveness by determining the baseline of current practice and behavior and the need for the program's services, identifying potential barriers to its prospective objectives, identifying the most needy market segments, identifying possible program partners, and if the program will be designed to change market behavior, establishing a market baseline against which to compare future behavior measurements. If major changes are occurring in external factors that may affect program outcomes (e.g., energy prices and changes in minimum-efficiency standards), a baseline assessment may be needed every 4-7 years to support impact evaluations.

Merit review: of proposals to aid funding decisions are performed annually.

Program is underway

Process evaluation:

  • In-progress Peer Review: in-progress peer reviews of project portfolios or entire programs should be performed on average every two years. EERE In-Progress Peer Review Guide.
  • Stage Gate reviews: performed on an as needed basis and determined by when a project portfolio is expected to reach a critical gate in the stage gating process.
  • Other process evaluation: performed once every 2-3 years or whenever a need exists to assess the efficiency of the program's operations and barriers to its progress. Process evaluations can also be performed at any time to answer ad hoc questions regarding program operations.

Outcome evaluation: conducted once every 2-3 years or annually if results are to be used to support annual Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) benefits analysis. Outcome evaluations can also be performed at any time to answer ad hoc questions regarding program outcomes.

Impact evaluation: performed once every 3-5 years or annually if results are to be used to support annual GPRA benefits analysis, or as often as cost-benefit analyses will be performed.

Cost-benefit evaluation: conducted once every 3-5 years or over entire historical period as necessary.

Baseline and Market Needs Assessment: repeated as necessary to determine if there is a continuing need for the program's services or for identifying new market segments to target.

Closing out or end of program

Process and/or impact evaluations after the program has ended: conducted at or near closeout or within 1-3 years of the end of the program (apply lessons learned from process evaluation to the design of next generation programs; use impact evaluation to document program effectiveness).

Cost-benefit evaluation: conducted within 1-3 years of the end of the program only if needed for accountability, and repeat as necessary (e.g., every 2 to 5 years) to account for ongoing accrual of benefits beyond program closeout.