Friday, November 11, 2011

Four Key Takeaways from Last Week's Enterprise Smart Grid and ISO 50001 Conferences

Last week's conference provided 150 attendees a cross section of market viewpoints from a diverse lineup of corporate energy managers (here are a few pictures). ISO related, NGO, utility and vendor also chimed in. Representing a variety of different industries (industrial, manufacturing, retail and university), we learned how the corporate energy management process is managed in each, and the challenges, investments, and tools these managers are using to achieve improved energy performance.

We wrote last week about four key questions that would be discussed and below are the answers.

1. What are the benefits of ISO 50001 certification and the business case for investing money and time?

Today the main benefits of ISO 50001 relate primarily to providing external validation for key customers and senior management that a company has an acceptable, referenceable process for addressing energy management. Not surprisingly the investment to certify for ISO 50001 is lower for companies who have already undergone an ISO 140001 certification. While a different third party certifier may be required for ISO 50001, these companies have already confirmed that their management and customers assign value to the ISO process, and hence the 50001 investment is a logical, cost effective next step.

For companies who have not made ISO related process investments, the value is more related to management's current assessment of how strategically they view energy consumption within their business. And the larger the organization and its number of facilities the greater the investment required to get started. Interestingly Schneider's case study started with just one facility as a means to learn and assess investment and value for broader adoption.

The workshop confirmed that ISO 50001 is descriptive, and not prescriptive. That is, ISO 50001 certification confirms that a company has a well documented energy management process, goals, and procedures to improve in cases when performance is below plan. ISO 50001 does not dedicate what level of energy use improvement is needed. Like other ISO programs, if improvement goals are not achieved, the company needs to document improvement steps. Non-conformance findings by ISO auditors is on process non-conformance, not goal underachievement.

2. What have Staples, Genzyme, Harvard University, Boston Sand and Gravel, and others learned about the financial return for submetering facilities and specific energy loads?

A recurring theme throughout the day is that real time energy use visibility drives savings. Beacon Capital Partners achieved a $30K savings annual savings through optimizing building startup based on real time energy monitoring and also saved $45,000 by turning off systems that were needlessly running during the weekend. Harvard University's School of Public Health saved $1.4M in chilled water use in one year due to better management of systems based on data from submeters.

Millipore has trained their own in-house energy assessment teams to use spot metering to identify opportunities with hard savings estimates and uses this data to build consensus with the site management for future projects.

However, on-going submetering generates lots of on-going data - always a problem for time-starved and understaffed facility and energy teams. One best practice utilized by Harvard University is to an outside consultant to analyze the data and send the University proposed work orders when anomalies are detected. This approach is more actionable than having finding consolidated in large monthly reports.

Three firms mentioned that the implementation cost of sub metering their facilities was a part of demand response programs.

All mentioned the value of the data. "We, including our facilities engineers, thought the facilities were operating well but the sub metering data clearly showed us areas we were missing" was a common theme heard over and over.

3. What are the latest trends in supplier scorecards for sustainability and energy? How aggressively are energy metrics being added to sustainability scorecards and RFPs?

Supplier scorecards and more environmental data requests in RFPs continue as an important growing trend, even in this economy. Firms in many diverse industries like steel, consumer products, computer hosting, and banking are receiving scorecard request from their customers. And it is not always the large customers. Genzyme received scorecard request from the Association of Renal Industries, a small industry trade association.

Tim Greiner from Pure Strategies stated that the scorecard programs take 4 approaches: Measure, Report, Goals/Targets, and Performance, and that each approach has tradeoffs.

4. How are companies using energy management software? What are differences among utility bill management, energy management, carbon, procurement, and submetering software solutions?

Like GHG reporting a few years ago, the vast majority of corporate users continue to utilize spreadsheets to track and manage their energy consumption. One speaker even recommended that to really understand what's going on companies must start with spreadsheets. Then, after developing a good understanding from the brute force data analysis process associated with spreadsheets, a company is in a better position to choose an energy management software that best addresses their particular operational need.

No single software system currently meets all needs. One global firm uses a bill management solution to collect global energy data. A large retailer uses separate software solutions for carbon, utility bill management and submetering data.

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