In Focus: Achieving Business Outcomes With Energy Intelligence
Spencer Rigler, Elster EnergyICT (Directory 2014)
Efficiency and sustainability are critical to businesses today. Rising energy bills, greater price volatility, and stricter regulation concerning energy consumption and carbon emissions are familiar challenges, all adding unpredictability to the cost base.
Businesses are already taking simple steps to improve the energy efficiency of their sites — turning things off, investing in energy-efficient equipment, and implementing building control systems. Ask any store manager where he believes he can save energy and he immediately looks up at the lights. Likewise, energy managers diligently monitor usage and bills to bolster their negotiating position with suppliers, but they lack the tools to drill into exactly how, where, and why energy is consumed throughout the enterprise.
Turning Static Data Into Actionable Intelligence
Businesses with multiple sites will have hundreds — if not thousands — of points measuring electricity, gas, and water consumption. They will also employ controls to manage the operation of building services, including advanced asset management software in place to help optimize asset lifecycles. These systems generate vast volumes of data, but are typically operated in silos, resulting in a lack of visibility across the site estate.
These systems contain a wealth of information such as whether the filters on refrigeration units have been cleaned, how regularly coolant is being topped up, and whether the door sensors are being serviced regularly. Businesses that have been using these types of systems for many years are sitting on vast data mines relating to their energy usage and physical assets.
Advanced energy management systems have, therefore, evolved to combine, standardize, and analyze the data in a user-friendly way. They employ easy-to-understand graphic dashboards that allow users to cross-reference a rise in energy consumption — known as an energy exception — with building controls and asset information, in order to identify the root cause and decide on a response or action.
Tracking and Sustainability
With this level of visibility, users are able to unlock the hidden patterns in their organization’s energy consumption and improve business performance. They can uncover both major areas for change and the granular details where individual actions can make a big difference.
Gathering diagnostic data from an end location, combining it with other information to create an energy exception, and then providing a set of actions according to asset type, provides users with a much more intensive and interactive energy-management engagement than conventional systems. This is essential for achieving sustainable savings, since real-world experience shows that efficiency programs lose momentum without constant attention, and savings can dip by 2 to 4 percent annually as a result.
Why It Pays To Be a Bean Counter
Such efficiency gains can have a direct impact on the bottom line for established companies with energy-management aspirations; with energy costs generally tracking a company’s size, savings can run into the multimillions. Think about it; save a $1,000 on your energy bill, and with an operating margin of 2 percent, that’s equivalent to having to selling $50,000 of merchandise — imagine asking a store manager to deliver additional sales of this magnitude!
Businesses have traditionally approached energy consumption as a fixed overhead, but the real opportunities lie in approaching it as a variable cost that can be tightly controlled with advanced energy-management systems to increase the competitiveness and effectiveness of operations and the business as a whole.