Too much data, not enough time?

Data is at the foundation of every good energy management strategy. However, energy management is increasingly being dealt with by those who are too stretched in their day-to-day role to spend the time looking at their data in-depth, particularly when companies are collecting data points in the thousands.

This means that opportunities to improve operational efficiency can be missed – a significant issue considering that energy costs are set to continue increasing for the foreseeable future, with reducing consumption one of the few remaining ways of reducing costs.

Richard Roberts, Account Manager at IMServ, suggests that the wider energy landscape means that this is a concern that will only grow in importance, both from an economic and social point of view.

“Between 2010-13, energy prices rose by 37%, and they’re predicted to rise another 50% by 2018,” he says. “This is going to have a significant impact on the profitability of most organisations, so they need to be exploring ways to decrease demand to try and counter this. Energy efficiency is a means of reducing costs and increasing profitability, but too often companies let internal factors get in the way of achieving this.

“Furthermore, there’s an increased sense of stakeholder awareness now, which is encouraging companies to act in a more socially responsible manner. They’re starting to look at technology that can help them reduce their carbon footprint and operate more sustainably, and energy efficiency is central to this effort.”

Nonetheless, despite these incentives, many organisations are failing to use the data they’re collecting to implement an effective energy management strategy. Mr Roberts outlines four reasons why companies can struggle with implementing good energy management policies:

  1. Amount of data – the sheer quantity of data being collected can make it difficult to utilise it effectively. Organisations can find it difficult to even aggregate the data they’re gathering, let alone interrogate it in order to make decisions.
  2. Inadequate internal resources – employees are unable to find the time or manpower to sift through the data. However, this stems from taking the wrong approach to the data collected. “Human resource is limited and valuable,” Mr Roberts says. “It should be focused not on interpreting enormous data sets, but instead implementing the findings from these.”
  3. Absence of robust systems – even though companies are aware of the benefits that analysing data can bring to energy management, they may still lack the systems or processes required to analyse and present the data. “There can be an overreliance on software like Excel,” adds Mr Roberts. “Whereas specialist software and specialist reporting services can be both more effective and more efficient at providing insight into energy usage patterns.”
  4. Inaccessible reporting – having a working system in place does not necessarily mean that it presents findings from data in the best way. Too often, the findings are complex and impenetrable. “There’s no point in drawing conclusions if you can’t easily convey those conclusions to the wider team in order to drive change,” Mr Roberts notes. “Companies need to be more flexible and more accessible in how they present data analysis, whether that’s a top-line summary or something that digs deep but is still comprehensible.”

For Mr Roberts, companies should turn to advanced metering and reporting services in order to start addressing these issues.

“Investing in specialised services that provide a concise, clear summary of energy data is a crucial first step in correcting inefficiencies and making savings. Services like our Continuous Efficiency can provide different levels of transparent reporting – companies can look at things as simple as lighting all the way up to system interactions – as well as expert support, so you can apply your own resources elsewhere. It can even help drive behavioural change through features like automated league tables.”

With energy data and costs only heading in one direction, Mr Roberts believes that outsourcing data collection and analysis will become increasingly significant in helping companies make the most of the former and reduce the latter.

“It helps support a company that otherwise might not have the time or resources to develop energy efficiency programmes. It’s also an ongoing process, so companies can track progress and assess things as they go. The current situation, where the quantity of data and lack of resource can render internal energy management strategies inflexible and stop-start, is not sustainable in the likely scenario that energy costs continue to rise. A different approach is needed, and specialised reporting services will be an intrinsic part of that.”