There is little doubt that proper energy management represents considerable cost savings for commercial building owners. The results of a recent survey of energy practices underscores the importance of managing energy consumption appropriately.
According to the majority of the 586 commercial building owners and facilities professionals surveyed, cost is a driving factor for utilizing improved energy management technologies, especially considering the fact that 82 percent of survey respondents anticipate increases in electricity prices over the next five years.
That’s a reasonable prediction. Looking at previous years, average retail prices to commercial customers climbed 10 percent from 1999 to 2003. However, from 2004 to 2009, rates climbed 24 percent. And the upward trend continues unabated.
Anticipating higher energy prices, 47 percent plan to decrease their per capita or square foot energy consumption in the coming years. So what can facilities professionals do now to more effectively manage their energy consumption as prices rise?
One of the best tools available to facilities professionals is using data for insights into better energy management. How can data inform future energy management initiatives?
Simply put, energy management at its core takes into consideration three things:
- What has occurred with energy consumption in the past
- What is occurring with energy consumption at present
- What is projected to occur with energy consumption in the future
Insights gained from appropriate data analysis allow facilities managers to accurately obtain valuable information and then act on the knowledge gained.
The Initial Step of Data Collection
Simply put, if building managers are not measuring their energy, they cannot manage it. Therefore, the first step of a comprehensive energy management plan is an auditing process. This initial benchmarking of building systems performance provides important information for facilities managers highlighting areas of concern, in terms of consumption rates, and providing a measure with which future consumption can be compared.
The more data you can get, the better. The days of manually reading meters once a week or once a month are no longer acceptable to modern facilities professionals.
Now, real-time monitoring allows for much better data capture, giving building owners a more panoramic view of where, how, and when energy consumption occurs.
Crafting a Plan
Using the data mined from the initial audit, facilities managers can design an energy management plan. Interestingly, of the 70 percent of survey respondents who had done a benchmarking audit, only 29 percent have a written energy management plan in place.
Energy and sustainability consultant Jennifer Woofter provides insight as to why there is an apparent disconnect between performing an audit and developing a written plan. She notes:
“There are no clear rules for how to implement an audit’s findings. Who should be involved, how much should you spend, how long should you wait before you make your money back-only you can answer these questions, because the right answers vary so widely.”
While her observation bears note, it is also abundantly clear that a detailed, written energy management plan will increase the chances of successful reduction of energy consumption.
The initial audit may reveal significant inefficiencies, all of which can be addressed by a detailed plan. For instance, it might be observed that advanced control systems for HVAC units are not functioning as they should, thereby leading to inefficiencies such as heating or cooling buildings at night or on weekends when the buildings are empty.
Or perhaps the audit will reveal that tenant behavior is a major cause of energy inefficiencies. If that is the case, a detailed plan for energy management might include tenant education and conservation incentives for tenants.
In any event, the data collected should inform the design of the energy management plan.
Implementing the Plan
Once the data is collected and the plan is finalized, it is time for implementation. Very often this involves equipment upgrades. For optimal results, it is wise to consider upgrading monitoring systems at this time as well. Why is this the case?
Modern metering technologies allow for more robust data collection, which ultimately leads to more efficient management. With real-time data capture, facilities managers can quickly see and act on energy consumption issues that arise, thereby saving time and money.
Using Data More Effectively
Once the written energy management plan has been implemented, it is time to measure the results of changes made. Consistent data collection allows for accurate measurement of the success and ROI for new energy management procedures.
Constant monitoring of all building systems has the following benefits:
- Pinpoints problems at the initial stage, thereby enabling a rapid response from facilities professionals
- Encourages regular maintenance of critical building systems
- Provides proof of the effectiveness of the energy management plan
- Suggests areas for constant improvement and analysis
The Bottom Line
It has been said that knowledge is power. In the case of using data to achieve insights into better energy management, that statement holds true. If you’re looking for more information about technologies to make your buildings more efficient through energy management, please contact us. We will work with you to improve efficiencies, acquire and aggregate important data, and get a better handle on the operation of your facilities.