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How Energy Monitoring and Auditing Can Save Your Company Money

For the modern company, energy is now more than just a cost to be managed. With growing social expectations for eco-conscious corporate values and policies, energy is now a C-suite concern. Meanwhile, due to COVID-19, many office buildings that would ordinarily be occupied daily by workers are now empty, affecting where peak loads occur. However, due to the increased need for ventilation to comply with health standards, energy use has not decreased as much as one would think. Thus, with energy use in flux, energy monitoring is more necessary than ever.

Energy monitoring can be tricky, especially if you have multiple facilities or buildings operating in different cities, states, or regions. And with each facility having separate utility bills, sorting through them and auditing for errors is time consuming and tedious. Fortunately, an energy management platform can simply the process. An energy management platform provides you with the ability to monitor your energy use and see if it is higher or lower than normal. An energy management platform also catches billing issues with electric, water, steam, and gas.

In this article, we will be discussing the benefits of energy monitoring (catching billing errors, reducing emissions, and saving money) and what it involves (e.g., emissions tracking and bill auditing). We will also look at several case studies in which energy monitoring was used to catch billing errors and reap significant savings for companies working with EnergyWatch. Finally, we will explore how EnergyWatch’s energy and sustainability management software, watchwire, can help your company take an active rather than passive role in monitoring its energy use.

The Benefits of Energy Monitoring and Auditing

One of the main benefits of energy monitoring is its ability to help your company reduce emissions. The world is still in a fierce battle against climate change, and we can expect aggressive climate policy in the coming years, likely resulting in the mandatory reduction of emissions. Energy monitoring allows you to track your emissions via interval data monitoring (more on this below) and quickly determine if your facilities are using more energy than is necessary. Once you are aware of your company’s energy consumption trends, you can work on reducing that consumption where possible.

Another benefit of energy monitoring is money saved. As we will see when we examine the case studies, proper monitoring of energy bills can catch disparities and errors that are adding extra dollars to your bills, e.g. taxes, supply contracts, double demand, wrong kWh, etc. When the error is caught, your utility company will rebill and send you an adjusted statement. That’s money in your pocket that would otherwise have been lost.

Finally, energy monitoring increases your company’s transparency to investors, clients, and the public. Being aware of your energy use is the first step to reporting on it. Being transparent about energy use is a great way to build trust in your company, as it shows your company cares about its impact on the planet and those who live here.

The Key Aspects of Energy Monitoring

  • Interval Data Monitoring: Interval data is rapidly becoming the superior way to monitor your energy use. It helps you discover any inefficiencies in your building right away by displaying spikes in data. Interval monitoring can also give you immediate feedback on whether your efficiency projects are working. Generated by interval meters and/or smart meters, interval data allows you to look at what is going on in your building right now. Thus, it is much more efficient in managing a building than monthly utility bill data. For example, A 2017 study on the California Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), showed the value of interval emissions data. The program had set out to show the ability of battery storage to reduce emissions. However, during the first years of the program, interval data monitoring showed that emissions actually increased – the batteries were charging and discharging at times that did not align with periods of lower grid emissions intensity. The program was able to use this information to correct the error. Such detailed monitoring and information may not have been possible without interval data.
  • Automated Utility Invoice Acquisition: Gone are the days of manually scraping your utility invoices to pull the important data into one collective location and check it for errors. Energy monitoring software should have the capability to connect to your utility vendor’s billing portal and programmatically extract the data from each invoice on a line-item basis. This allows for easy identification of any errors in billing.

Energy Monitoring Case Studies

Having an energy and sustainability management platform alleviates the time and energy needed to acquire and consolidate utility bill data, monitor the data, and audit for errors.  These audits often result in large error catches that ultimately save users substantial amounts of money.  Below we will explore several of the audit catches the EnergyWatch team have uncovered recently.

1. Sales Tax

EnergyWatch client Pompeian Olive Oil was refunded over $71,500 due to a sales tax error – their buildings were supposed to be tax exempt but the State accidentally removed that status from their exemptions. Pompeian had upgraded their service type and meter, as a result, the state tax exemption status was mistakenly removed. The State ultimately refunded Pompeian the sales tax they were charged over four years from 2012 to 2016.

2. Incorrect kWh

  • One of the most common billing errors we encounter is invoices with the wrong monthly kWh consumption. In this example, our client saw a substantial increase in energy usage on their statement that did not match their historical usage profile. This catch resulted in a 5% lower bill for their Houston site and a 10% lower bill for their remaining accounts. Had they not been tracking their utility data in the platform, they would not have come to this realization.
  • In another example, a university’s energy supplier significantly overbilled their usage for a billing period. The school was billed for 860,930 kWh while their typical usage is around half that amount. Through our Invoice Management audit process, that invoice was flagged and the university was notified. The supplier cancelled the original invoice and rebilled, supply costs for that period went from $77,690 to approximately $38,500.

3. Supply Contract Details

Another of our clients, a national retail brand, noticed discrepancies on their monthly statements. A block energy audit was conducted past invoices to make sure they had been billed correctly for their energy use. In Massachusetts, two additional energy blocks were billed that were not scheduled. In New York, several locations were billed for 6 energy blocks when only 3 were scheduled. In Texas, the opposite problem arose: 6 energy blocks were billed when 8 blocks were scheduled. It turned out that when the retail brand had transitioned to a new energy supplier, the block energy volumes were incorrect on all the accounts, affecting all billing periods since the transition.

4. Load Factor

When a client’s utility bill shows a load factor greater than 100%, that either means that the energy demand was too low or the usage was too high. One of our clients received an estimated bill from Con Edison, which takes the usage/demand from the same month of the prior year when they issue estimated bills. The usage on the client’s invoice was overestimated, resulting in a load factor greater than 100%. Con Edison estimated the usage at 3,668,800 kWh, which was much higher than prior months and more than double compared to the same month a year previously. Con Ed was notified and issued a corrected bill.

How EnergyWatch Can Help

If you are looking for an energy and sustainability management service that offers advanced energy monitoring, EnergyWatch’s WatchWire platform has you covered. WatchWire gives you the ability to thoroughly analyze your energy data in a cloud-based, centralized platform. It also gives you the ability to set thresholds and alerts you to when your usage falls outside of your typical trends. When you’re ready to take the next step and increase the efficiency of you building(s), WatchWire helps you measure and verify the effectiveness of your efficiency projects and benchmark your efforts against national efficiency standards like WELL Building and ENERGY STAR. To learn more about WatchWire’s capabilities, download the WatchWire Fact Sheet.