Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Who Has Time to Read and Analyze Submeter Energy Data (Part 2)??

Part one discussed the benefits for energy and facility managers of near-real time data for specific energy loads, work areas, or equipment.   We reviewed some of the challenges such as time-starved staffs, misplaced internal corporate incentives for energy improvement, and a long ROI for the actual meter installation.


We received responses from many of you -- thank you. Here is a sampling.

Paul Hepperla, VP of Strategy at Verisae, shared some quantitative data that reinforces the challenges. He noted that the Institute for Building Efficiency surveys found that about 50% respondents only rely on utility bills for their energy data and at least another 10% don't look at any energy data (utility or meter). Small team size are confirmed in IFMA surveys that show 2.3 FTE's on energy teams for large entities (more than $30M in energy spend and 5M square feet).

Paul and others noted that identifying true energy use anomalies from these large data sets requires human domain expertise and is more than simply looking for graphical trends of, say, kWh per square foot.

Bill Holmes of Holmes Energy shared a story of an engineer in a steel mill who had servers full of years of data from every second from every system but had no budget, time or tools to make sense of it.

Many noted that flat energy priced elongate the ROI of meter investment and that few utilities currently provide incentive for behavior changes.

Several corporate sustainability managers mentioned the need for solutions that were corporate-wide (or at least corporate-wide across their largest facilities or across their stores or hotels).

Practical Solutions Emerge

Practical, workable and affordable solutions are emerging but all involve a combination of technology and human domain expertise (and increasingly this human expertise is at the vendor).

Our list of practical solutions does not yet not include solutions from utilities involving smart meters. While utility smart meters are a very important trend, they are only a part of and not the entire solution for organizations.   Utility smart meters provide only main meter data which is not load-specific and the utilities do not have domain experts to interpret the data.   Technology-only solutions (all the rage now with the "big data" trend are similarly insufficient).

We are impressed with solutions that are a cost-effective extension of the existing facility or energy management team since in general we don't see companies en masse increasing the size of these teams. These solutions fall into three broad categories.

1. Outsourced energy analysis to interpret the data and generate proposed work orders. Here vendors have human energy analysts who interpret data for several clients at a time. (Vendor examples include Verisae, EnerNOC, Cimetrics, Schneider Electric, Ecova and others.)

2. Outsourced monitoring and control of HVAC and lighting. Here a third party not only analyzes interval data but also remotely controls assets such as turning down temperatures or controlling lights based on weather or occupancy changes. (Vendor examples include Phoenix Energy Technologies and others.)

3. Truly open BMS systems. Here organizations can easily provide multiple vendors access to submeter data from their BMS for analysis. (One example is Johnson Controls' Panoptix Platform Services that enable facility managers to share data via APIs with third party vendors. Other BMS manufacturers are rumored to be headed in the same direction.)

The benefits and challenges of submeter data for energy reduction are well recognized. Because of small energy staff size and occasional skill set mismatches, solutions that are a mix of technology and outsourced domain expertise are currently the most promising.

No comments: