Some time ago JLL popularized the 3:30:300 rule of thumb for the typical order of magnitude between a company’s utilities, rent, and payroll. That $3 for utilities may look small as an overall component of the cost ratio, however energy managers with a large facility or portfolio of buildings manage multimillion-dollar budgets and will tell you that unexpected volatility and utility spend overrun keeps them up at night. The good news, however, is that with even small investments in technology, building operators are gaining a lot of insight into how their buildings perform day to day and are controlling costs with much more certainty.
For a lot of energy managers, the task of energy management is still very much a reactive process and viewed as a liability for cost overrun. In the old way of doing things, energy managers pay utility bills for each facility, compare last month’s usage to historical to see if it is in line with budget, perhaps run a comparison of monthly usage across the portfolio to identify outliers and locations for improvement, and respond to alarms in the BAS or the seemingly never-ending stream of hot/cold calls.
Luckily, technology is enabling a new way to manage energy in buildings. Energy managers need no longer just wait for the utility bill to take reactive action. From enhanced utility bill and real-time interval data analysis, through to the use of on-site generation and demand management strategies to reduce energy spend while enabling new revenue streams, energy managers can mitigate risks that historically were much harder to address.
Unpacking the benefits of the new methods of energy management.
Fundamentally, enhanced energy management strategies enable energy managers to reduce energy spend volatility while uncovering high ROI opportunities to reduce overall opex—with the secondary benefits of driving environmental benefits and employee satisfaction.
Since there is a lot to review here, we’ll cover the extent of the new way of managing energy over the course of two posts.
Conduct a continuous Ashrae Level 1 audit with utility bills and interval meter data.
If we talk about energy management as a journey let’s start with the base case—automated collection of utility billing information and access to real-time interval meter data.
Ashrae level 1 audits can be used as a means to level set about a building’s performance and to identify basic energy efficiency opportunities to bring a building up to a “good” performance level. With automated collection and analysis of utility bill information, BuildingFit provides dashboards that can:
- Review individual building performance—in a single month or compared to past usage
- Benchmark performance across a portfolio or publicly available information for an entire industry
- Normalize any of the above for building area, weather, or a custom metric most important to a business (from commonly used factors like weather or revenue, or industry specific metrics like number of hospital beds for healthcare or widgets produced in manufacturing).
Going a step further towards displaying actionable information, interval meter data provides a real-time view of building (or sub-meter if available) level consumption and historical trends over time.
Energy managers can display interval data in a number of ways for different purposes – from monitoring hourly consumption trends with daily overlay curves to better managing peak demand with load duration curves.
With daily overaly charts specifically, we overlay each day’s interval demand on a 24 hour x-axis. These charts can reveal high return on investment changes (ie scheduling and sequence rewriting) that can lead to reduced demand and consumption charges as well as extend equipment life. The below chart shows an example of all three:
Even a quick glance demonstrates a faulty startup sequence likely stressing equipment and causing 30% excess demand charges, which in many markets could mean 10% savings on electric bills if mitigated.
Utility bill and interval meter data analysis represent the lowest hanging fruit and a valuable first step for energy managers to level set the performance of their buildings. In our next post we’ll go further down the line of optimization to evaluate emerging opportunities from the intersection of on-site generation and demand-side management.