Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Don't Underestimate the Cost of Obtaining Energy Data

Leaders implementing enterprise energy management software (EEMS) must not underestimate the cost of obtaining billing or interval energy data for their facilities.   Securing accurate and complete energy data is a perennial implementation challenge that increases budgets and delays rollouts.  For multiple reasons, utilities systems are not improving quickly and, in response, companies are increasingly turning to utility bill management services from vendors like Schneider Electric and Siemens and to "energy data services" from startups like Urjanet and Genability.  These vendors help in acquiring energy cost and use data from multiple utilities for dozens or hundreds of facilities.

Accurate and complete energy data are essential to successful implementations.  It simply does not matter how fancy the graphics, reports or dashboard from your EMS are if the data are not accurate, complete, and timely.

Energy data comes in two forms: monthly utility bill data and interval data (in a variety of types).  Both forms need to be normalized for weather, load and other factors to determine trends.

Monthly utility billing data from the main utility meter at each facility is the foundational layer and the "source of truth" that energy budgets must tie back to.   While monthly bills contain use and cost information, they are "rear views" into consumption, as they are received 30-60 days after the energy is used.

Interval data helps identify energy use anomalies for operational improvements and comes in a variety of flavors.  Here are several types of interval data:

Interval data from main meter (delayed). This is interval data from the main meter that often comes from the utility's pulse or smart meter, but may be delayed by several days since the data is frustratingly first sent to the utility before being sent to the company.  This data may or may not come with useful metadata such as price (tariff) and peak charge information, address, and parent/company account information.

Interval data from main meter (real time). A meter installed by the company or a demand response vendor is another source of interval data from the main utility meter.  This meter provides real time data to the EMS system but does not include cost information.
Interval data from specific loads (real time).  Submeters on specific energy loads like lighting or HVAC or individual energy assets, like a chiller or furnace, are another source of real-time interval data.  Energy assets can also include on-site generation equipment like solar, wind, etc. where companies track power generation as well.
Capturing all these types of data is cost prohibitive for organizations, so teams need to prioritize based on use cases and financial returns.   Most teams start with utility bill data and then move to the select use of interval data for certain facilities.

Data and implementation problems can also be hampered by other factors.  The sheer number of facilities is one (one company has 250 facilities across 45 countries).  Some facilities have multiple utilities meters because they had buildings that were expanded (one hotel had 8 utility meters while one factory had 5).   For organizations that purchase electricity from third parties, determining the actual cost of electricity from the generation and transport charges can be labor intensive.

In short, obtaining energy cost and use data for any EEMS is not trivial and should not be overlooked by teams implementing software.  While each organization is unique, data capture requirements need to be adequately budgeted for in terms of dollars and time.

If you are able, join us tomorrow, Oct 17, for a webinar with Cox Enterprise and Urjanet on this topic (info below) to learn how one company tackled this problem.

 Webinar -- How to Cost Effectively Get Energy and Billing Data for 1,000+ Facilities: Case Study with Cox Enterprises.  Thursday Oct 17, 1p EST. [new date]
Obtaining energy data for thousands of facilities is often the largest cost element of successful corporate energy management deployments. For large organizations, securing billing and interval data from hundreds of facilities can account for 50% or more of a project budget. Corporate energy managers, IT professionals, EHS managers and Sustainability leaders will learn on this webinar how Cox Enterprises reduced their energy data cost by 80%. Moderated by Paul Baier from Groom Energy, the webinar speakers include executives from Cox Enterprise and Urjanet.  Register here.

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