There are some firms who are simply not seeing worthwhile returns on their energy efficiency investments, despite the fact that there are substantial cost savings to be had. Here John Kent, technology entrepreneur and founder of Zeco Energy, explains how vital real time visibility and control of energy consumption is to ensuring meaningful change
Energy efficiency is big business – and it’s getting bigger. According to a new report from Pike Research, the global market for energy efficiency retro-fits will expand from $80.3bn in 2011 to $151.8bn by 2020.
There are also important sustainability and availability issues at stake. Analysis into electricity market reform and future UK energy availability by McKinsey and DECC has identified that implementing efficiency improvement measures to their full potential could release much needed UK wide electricity savings, in-turn reducing unsustainable network demand.
Better energy management also brings significant advantage for organisations, especially in demonstrating corporate social responsibility and carbon savings. Crucially, in today’s cost pressured environment, reducing energy waste has become increasingly compelling in the battle to cut operating costs and achieve long term savings.
Unfortunately, most corporate awareness schemes lack meaningful information about when and where energy is being used. This, in-turn, makes it difficult to incentivise staff and introduce the necessary behaviour changes required for lasting results.
Another common challenge is with the complexity of the data provided by bill validation, tariff analysis and building management systems, which is difficult to understand, However, using the latest software, it’s now possible to unlock precise information on day to day energy usage and use it to identify exactly when and where it is being wasted. This information can be used to help introduce appropriate schemes to reduce energy waste – in-turn releasing valuable cost savings.
Zeco Energy Manager has been specifically designed as a business user application, rather than being technology driven, which makes it easy for anyone in an organisation to use it. The tool converts consumption data into financial information, enabling businesses to introduce accountability for energy use/waste. The software can monitor and control energy use of equipment and areas of a business, providing key performance reports and league tables for departments and employees.
Energy management software provides organisations with immediate visibility of their energy cost patterns which may have previously gone unnoticed. By highlighting these costs, the software shows obvious areas for improvement such as heating and ventilation, temperature control and equipment or lighting.
One office-based user, for example, had been heating their building at a constant 23°C day and night – and at weekends. Identifying that the building management system had been set incorrectly reduced their future bill by 30%.
Energy efficiency technology is especially compelling for organisations with buildings that generate annual energy costs of over £20,000. In these environments it has been shown that energy efficiency technology can help bring about a 10-20% reduction in annual bills. By breaking down energy use beyond the main incoming meter, Zeco Energy Manager can highlight precisely where, when and how much energy is being consumed in specific areas of the organisation. An easy to read dashboard then presents this information in a meaningful way that can readily be acted upon.
Armed with this information, it is possible for the business’ energy champions, be they a facilities/engineering manager, finance manager or a board level director, to incentivise staff based on a target level of savings over a set period. A reduction in budgeted energy expenditure can be used to release capital to buy new equipment and for the process to become self financing from savings achieved.
Leveraging existing infrastructure
Based on a wireless mesh network, Zeco Energy Manager can enhance any existing building management system, enabling portable monitoring beyond the sub-meter. The software leverages and optimises the existing infrastructure, while the web-based technology, telemetry and open communication protocols it relies on essentially makes it a scalable plug and play solution.
The energy management tool also provides the means with which to implement control, as well as giving users remote visibility. This functionality means a director or facilities manager can use a smartphone or tablet to find out their organisation’s energy costs.
Among the most compelling aspects of the software is that it automatically generates easy to browse reports for all relevant line managers containing headline information and results. As such, while it doesn’t require a lot of input from the business, it will serve to highlight waste as and when it occurs, enabling the user to take the necessary steps required to reduce it immediately, rather than identifying it retrospectively when the bill comes in and incurring further unnecessary cost.
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