What Are the Different Building Energy Management Solutions?
If you own or manage a building, whether it be a school, facility, manufacturing plant, hospital, office building, or hotel, you need to manage its energy use. Why? Because without energy management, you’re falling behind in today’s expected sustainability goals and losing money due to budget variances, inefficient building systems, peak load costs, and much more. Here’s a handy metaphor: Think of all these potential problems like raindrops. How can you avoid them? Enter, building energy management solutions. When employed together, the different building energy management solutions are like a big umbrella protecting your building(s) (and ultimately, your organization) from those raindrops.
In this article, we’ll explore 6 different building energy management solutions and how they can help your company or organization save money, improve its bottom line, and ultimately flourish.
6 Building Energy Management Solutions to Implement
1. Invoice Data Automated Collection and Consolidation
Picture this: Your company is expanding, and you’ve recently added several new buildings to your portfolio. Growth is great, but now that you have more than one building, there are numerous utility bills for your finance team to keep track of. Manually entering all that data into spreadsheets and graphs and keeping track of which buildings are underperforming is overwhelming and results in lost savings opportunities. You could hire more people to help manage the data, but that means you will have additional salaries to pay, and your employees may still have to contend with inconsistent units and differing efficiency regulations (if you have buildings in more than one city/state).
One of the first big building energy management solutions is having an effective energy management software that will integrate directly with your utility, collecting all utility line item data and converting or standardizing units to those of your choosing. Additionally, energy management software can easily identify the emissions and efficiency laws in different regions, allowing you to ensure each of your buildings comply. This is particularly essential now, as many cities and states are mandating buildings comply with emissions caps like NYC’s local law 97 or Boston’s recent decarbonization ordinance. Energy management software is able to track not only local laws, but the sustainability reporting guidelines of ENERGY STAR and GRESB, to name a few.
2. Energy Budgeting & Forecasting
Have you ever received utility bills that differ from what you expected? This incident, known as a variance, can occur for a variety of reasons, e.g. more or less electricity, steam, gas, or water was used than budgeted for or energy efficiency projects were implemented throughout the year.
While no budget will ever be 100% accurate, having an energy management software with a budgeting algorithm can help prevent the surprise headache of budget variances without explanation. The algorithm can create accurate budgets based on peak load time forecasts, energy supply market projections, proprietary consumption, and delivery tariff rates. It will also provide you with the ability to factor in building occupancy, predicted weather, and any efficiency projects you might be planning. A comprehensive budgeting algorithm can help with accuracy, leading to more efficient business operations and allocated capital. When the inevitable budget variance strikes, energy management software makes identifying and explaining the cause easy.
3. Measurement and Verification
Envision that you have invested in new equipment or implemented a new energy efficiency operational strategy in your building(s). You appealed to your company board for the funding, and now they want to see how their investment is paying off. If you do not have a plan in place for measurement and verification from implementation, it will be difficult to benchmark the results against your previous operating efficiency and costs. Measurement and Verification (M&V) is the process of planning, measuring, collecting, and analyzing data for the purpose of verifying and reporting your energy savings within your facility resulting from the implementation of energy conservation measures (ECMs). Without a clear analysis showing how well your new equipment/strategy is doing, your board is less likely to continue providing funding, or fund new projects in the future. This means that your company might miss out on opportunities to save money and reduce wasted energy. savings.
Energy management software can help you measure and verify efficiency projects. Even with the installation of sensors, advanced meters, and building control systems, the data provided is often in different (or unusable) formats and multivariate regression models are beyond the scope of most internal energy teams. Ideally, your energy management platform should fully integrate meter, weather, occupancy, and invoice information and make it accessible via the cloud to all interested parties.
4. Real-Time and Interval Data Monitoring
Imagine you have just received your building’s monthly utility bill – it’s much higher than you were expecting. You send your chief engineer to investigate the cause and find that your Building Management Systems (BMS) did not provide the expected control to systems (for example, BMS systems may indicate they are switched off, but still run at night, or show incorrect supply and return temperatures and quantities of recirculation). Now you know what caused your utility bill to jump, but what if you could have caught the issue sooner, thus preventing the high bill and the questions from your administrators?
Real-time and interval data monitoring involves having an energy management system that collects data from meter companies like eGauge and Accuenergy. The daily (or hourly, or in 15-minute intervals) data from your meters are then sent directly to the energy management system, which can:
- Provide an overview of your meter’s interval data in the respective intervals, which can be viewed by current day, week, year, or any selected timeframe, such as “Billing Period”
- Graph the average usage per day for the past 12 months – broken down by summer, winter, or shoulder months
These functions ensure daily usages are meeting expectations (e.g. lower usage on weekends and holidays vs. business days), and if they are not, any anomalies are easy to spot. Now, if an issue arises, you will be able to fix it immediately – no more unpleasant surprises on your utility bills.
5. Energy Benchmarking
When it comes to energy management, all your buildings might be efficient, but what should you do if some buildings are more efficient than others? First, you need to determine what is causing similar properties in the same region as yours to perform differently (this is particularly important if you live in a city/state that requires your buildings to meet specific efficiency standards). Next, you need to address the problem so that all your buildings are operating at maximum efficiency. Doing these tasks manually can be complicated, since you are forced to examine individual data sets, building systems, and local regulations.
Energy benchmarking involves measuring the efficiency of your buildings against each other, against similar “model” buildings, or against national efficiency guidelines like those of ENERGY STAR and GRESB. Your energy management software should contain a benchmarking module which shows you graphs comparing your buildings’ efficiency to that of others. It should also be able to identify problem areas, such as inefficient appliances or heating/cooling systems. The more efficiently the buildings run, the more money you will save. It’s also worth noting that, in light of the global climate crisis, investors and consumers value energy efficiency more than ever, and are more likely to do business with an efficient company. Using benchmarking to ensure your buildings are equally efficient is a win-win for everyone.
6. Peak Load Management
Imagine it’s the hottest day of the summer and tenants in your office buildings have their air conditioners on full blast. Today will be a peak load day, when the most energy is demanded from the grid. Your peak load contribution (PLC) is determined by your company’s contribution to the grid at the peak load hour. It is calculated depending on how much electricity your building(s) demand when the grid is peaking. Your PLC is used by utility companies to indicate how much generation they will need to keep up with demand and prevent shortages in the future, and it can often take up to 30% of your utility bill. Since you are billed for both the energy you consume and the energy that must to be available to meet your account’s demand, it is vital to manage your PLC and plan for peak load times. If you are not anticipating when peak hours will occur, you’re running the risk of:
- Not having enough power allocated
- Receiving a PLC tag that will increase your utility bills for the consequential year
- Having unresolved inefficiencies in your building that could waste valuable energy during the peak time
All these risks lead to higher electricity bills and – you guessed it – affect your bottom line. The last (but certainly not least!) of the building energy management solutions involves staying abreast of peak load hours and your PLC. This is infinitely easier with energy management software. Your platform should provide you with predictive analytics to alert you when peak load hours are likely to occur, e.g. during working hours on the warmest or coldest days of the year. Now that the country is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, peak load hours have shifted from the morning to the early and late afternoon, and peak loads are concentrated around residential buildings (since many office buildings are now largely vacant). Energy management software can help you track, measure, and verify the performance of your peak load management efforts, as well as identify areas of inefficiency in your buildings that might waste energy during peak times.
Note that many of the problems discussed above are interconnected (after all, raindrops don’t fall by themselves, but along with hundreds of others!) For example, real-time data monitoring can help you catch issues which effect energy use during peak load times or keep one of your buildings from operating as efficiently as other buildings you benchmark against. Measurement and verification can be essential for implementing efficiency projects that you identified as necessary through benchmarking. Finally, all of the building energy management solutions are centered around utilizing a strong energy management platform. WatchWire provides you with all the services discussed above, and more. For more information about WatchWire’s capabilities, download the WatchWire Fact Sheet.