Pieter Noordam 2016-01-13 13:44:44
Ever-increasing energy costs erode businesses’ profit margins, and traditional energy reports aren’t providing actionable answers. To make effective changes, organizations require accurate and timely energy data that measures performance against corporate goals. That’s an extremely costly and error-prone challenge for organizations of nearly any size. Data being reported by energy management systems is collected in isolated silos with no plan to solve the original goal of allowing for simple and immediate understanding energy use and costs. Advanced IT now supports myriad business functions, from manufacturing processes, to sales, inventory control, human resources, and marketing. Tracking and analyzing data provides the insights needed to increase productivity and save money. Yet, the billions of dollars spent annually by enterprises on energy costs remains uncontrolled and haphazardly benchmarked. This is due to the fragmented state of energy management software, often owned or operated by different divisions within a company or different companies within a building. Furthermore, data-generating software from different suppliers is typically not designed to work in unison with or serve corporate IT systems. Now a fresh approach mitigates the problems, quantifying energy data financially and providing the insights to help businesses devise optimal solutions. What’s Broken Controlling the ever-increasing cost of energy and the processes that create environmental impact is critical to long-term business success. Therefore, organizations require accurate and timely data to measure performance against their corporate goals. Government and shareholder-mandated improvement indicators drive the need for visibility into energy efficiency and reliability. However, according to a 2013 LNS Research study, 39% of respondents listed energy metrics as the top challenge in meeting energy efficiency goals. Building management system (BMS) suppliers claim to provide integrated, single-source solutions. Unfortunately, the critical data being collected isn’t being integrated back to the business process—it’s still in a silo. There’s no plan to solve the end-customer’s original problem. Collected EMS and BMS data still doesn’t answer simple questions about the reliability, cost, impact, performance, and efficiency of the customer’s operation. All this big data still isn’t answering some essential questions about the corporate energy picture, including: • How much will the utility bill be at the end of the month? • How reliable is our power? • What impact does our power supply have on our operations? • Are our utility suppliers performing to service level agreements? • Are we using energy efficiently? • What’s the ROI on last year’s energy efficiency retrofits? • What’s the impact of changing utility providers? Many existing, so-called “energy intelligence” offerings rely merely on utilities’s meters and billing data; essentially they are repackaging the utility-provided data. The status quo of energy “dashboards” relying on utilities’ data and billing information cannot accurately confirm utility billing data or performance. Those “dashboards” create nice graphics, but offer no viable means to truly audit utility bills and performance. What does a dashboard do for your overall business intelligence? Can your dashboard provide information on your utility provider’s quality of service? Can it help your Ops team understand Power Quality events with information on sag/swell, duration, magnitude, and total harmonic distortion (THD)? Can it help the Finance Department understand the corporate energy investment? That information is out there and ready to be analyzed and understood, if you can extract it from the various silos and communicate it across the organizational boundaries. Success Strategies I’m advocating a revolutionary change—using the power of information technology to deliver answers to large business-critical energy consumers’ problems. This approach demands leveraging the large installed base of energy meters and energy management systems to transform the collected silos of energy data into a wealth of “golden” information enabling intelligent business decision-making. Simply coordinating the installed base of metering, EMS, and BMS assets with modern IT tools can consolidate these data silos, and then allocate the information in ways that are usable to provide the answers customers need to measure the reliability, cost, impact, performance, and efficiency of their operations. Independent third parties providing such services can also offer unbiased performance validation to customers, utilities, and government agencies for energy efficiency investments. Instead of relying on the utilities’ meters and billing data, or requiring a new metering infrastructure, why not apply an organization’s existing energy and power monitoring system (EPMS) to provide utility-independent, revenue-grade, real-time data necessary for true energy intelligence? Besides creating an effectively independent and accurate alternative to utility-based systems, such an approach will allow for information on the utility supplier’s quality of service as well. Existing energy intelligence offerings aren’t addressing all aspects of a facility’s energy picture. To truly provide “intelligence”, they must! Ironically, mining the energy data being collected by the large metering infrastructure that businesses have already invested in, when connected to the right IT tools, provides a clear, timely understanding of energy use, costs and quality-of-service. This approach aligns incentives from operations and financial personnel by reducing consumption and cost while improving quality. Behold—The Virtual Meter Employing modern IT tools enables virtual metering techniques which aggregate meter data and can do so across business functions, departments, and projects. Doing this eliminates tedious, time-consuming, and error-prone spreadsheets. Any number or combination of physical electrical meters located throughout various facilities are mathematically aggregated as several virtual meter groups or accounts. A virtual meter clearly defines the energy consumption to be attributed to each department, building, project, and important key performance indicators (KPIs) like power usage effectiveness (PUE) or data center infrastructure efficiency (DCiE). By monitoring energy consumption at the device, department, and enterprise level, identifying energy-saving opportunities is made quite clear. By applying cloud computing data integration techniques, energy use and cost forecasting can tie the meter data to the actual utility tariff billed at that meter, regardless of where it is or what it is metering. Reports gleaned from the existing utility-independent metering data on energy use and cost can be revenue-grade accurate. Financial features would also include a tool to accrue and reconcile the forecast to the actual bill. Real “Energy Intelligence Solutions” should also calculate “unbundled” bills if your company purchases energy independent of a utility. The proposed approach is simply a better way of managing utility bills and checking the utility bills for accuracy. But the benefits go much further. The Path to True Energy Use Visibility When effective software tools are employed to analyze data from existing meters, EMS and BMS installations, and that data is indexed with a centralized report server, real intelligence becomes possible. With those IT capabilities in place, an analytics system can deliver customized reports to the interested parties with immediate answers. This information is easily understood, and accessible anywhere, anytime. With such a system in play, all the following highly desirable analytical benefits and more become available: Forecasting- Know what your energy use and costs will be long before you get the bills. Efficiency- Understand what you are paying for and develop strategies to lower costs and be more efficient. Sharing- Provide easily accessible, actionable energy-related information across business functions. Accountability- Provide an independent source of accurate data to enable you to truly audit utility bills and hold suppliers accountable for quality of service. Aggregation– Get the big picture view with the granularity of data you wish. Understand energy use and cost by facility, region, project, department, or product. From Reports to Intelligence Imagine data from your company’s EPMS aggregated with utility tariff data, formatted into responsibility-specific KPIs and delivered in real-time to a Web portal for all appropriate employees and business partners to view? Take it further: Download all your energy and power metrics with a single click using standard or customized reports to meet your organization’s various needs, like consolidating meters and sites into a single report. Some other potential benefits of accessing and applying your company’s big data energy meter investment could also include: • Editing reports to suit your organization’s various departmental requirements • Saving reports for future use or automatically scheduling report generation and delivery • Comparing energy use between multiple sites and against historical data for each one • Using the reports to help identify variances and problem areas based on historical data or custom settings • Reconciling utility bills with an accrual and reconciliation engine Conclusion These are among the host of outcomes that grow out of mining, integrating, and analyzing what was once siloed data from your installed EPMS infrastructure, thus moving from spreadsheets to actionable information. The essential innovation investment is information technology unveiling the isolated metering data which provides insights and cost control capabilities that cannot be gained from utility- provided reporting. Then organizations can capture clear, simple, timely, actionable intelligence about their energy costs, consumption and quality-of-service. The data is there from the metering investment you already made. Apply it to solving problems! Pieter Noordam is CEO at Alchemy Unlimited, the Campbell, CA-based expert in strategies for creating energy intelligence.
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