Energy Wise: Begin submetering with the end in mind
March 27, 2019 - There is a lot of enthusiastic talk nowadays about energy submetering, visualisation of use and monitoring. Some companies offer meters, others offer software. Their webinars, presentations, sales pitches and proposals seem to go non-stop. Yet, while everyone agrees measuring energy use is a good idea, very few of these conversations grow into actual projects unless the costs are fully subsidized by grants or incentives.
This pattern is unfortunate for both vendors and clients. Why does it happen and how can we do better?
In my opinion, the reason is most energy submetering projects attempt to
‘clean the fish from the wrong end,’ so to speak. Instead of actually helping organizations manage their energy better and easier, these projects deliver more data, graphs, ratios and reports. No one really wants to receive more reports with more numbers to comprehend. So, it is no wonder energy submetering projects are rarely approved.
In ‘energy management,’ the key word is not ‘energy,’ but ‘management.’ Every manager strives to do their job in as simple and as efficient a fashion as possible. A tool that does not make their life easier has slim chances of approval:
Energy manager: “Please approve the purchase of 20 submeters.”
CFO: “Why do you want them?
Energy manager: “They will show our energy consumption every second on a big screen.”
CFO: “So what? How will that benefit our organization financially?”
Indeed, the issue of what happens after submeters are installed can prompt a whole array of questions:
- Who will collect metered data and how?
- How will it be stored and processed?
- Who will receive energy reports?
- Who will take what action based on those reports?
- What will happen if the reports are not produced and acted upon?
When developing an energy management information system (EMIS), all of these questions must be answered before any hardware or software is considered. Organizations must find out how to benefit from the analysis of energy information; then they will know what reports are needed, what data must be collected and what analysis must be performed.
This is an opportunity for energy management to deliver massive value beyond cost reduction, in terms of quality control, employee productivity and production volume.
On the other hand, if management does not plan to act on energy performance reports in a timely manner, then all of the modern meters, accurate sensors and flashy dashboards will only represent costs and hassle.
This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Energy Manager Canada.
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