How to improve energy visibility for higher efficiency

Ian Hopkins

Public sector organisations may be missing out on opportunities to maximise energy efficiency savings and improve cost and carbon performance because they don’t have clear visibility over their energy consumption, says Ian Hopkins, Director of Centrica Business Solutions.

Research by Centrica Business Solutions shows that less than a quarter of organisations monitor energy use continuously, with most saying they only measure usage annually or even less frequently.

If you don’t know precisely how, when and where energy is being used across your sites, it is almost impossible to pinpoint exactly where waste is occurring. How can you understand where your energy costs really lie, or the best opportunities to make savings?

Advanced analytics

The most energy efficient organisations understand the importance of collecting and analysing energy consumption data. The best performers use advanced software analytics to gain deeper energy insights by taking their energy intelligence gathering beyond the meter. In this way they can find out exactly how energy intensive processes and equipment are using energy and unlock greater value from these assets.

This advanced analytics approach involves attaching wireless sensors to equipment and linking these up to an online analytics platform using Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The resulting data can provide real-time, granular visibility of power use and easy-to-digest insights into how processes and assets are performing.

By deploying advanced energy monitoring and measurement solutions, organisations can gain a clear understanding of their energy use across multiple sites – right down to individual device level. Hundreds of sensors can be installed within a few hours, leading to full energy visibility without causing any disruption to operations.

Improving operational performance

Energy monitoring software helps public bodies to identify consumption anomalies that can indicate energy waste and problems with operational performance. In fact, identifying problems with operational efficiency can be the most significant benefit. It can quickly identify hidden weaknesses in operational processes and equipment faults because irregular energy consumption patterns can be symptomatic of difficult to detect problems and performance issues.

Managers can make use of energy intelligence to make adjustments, repairs or corrections to equipment or systems. This can reduce downtime, improve flexibility and boost productivity. It can sometimes provide opportunities to spot potential equipment failures before they happen, thus avoiding disruption and cost.

Advanced energy analytics also reveals areas where energy is being wasted, particularly during downtime in the evening or over weekends. If non-essential equipment is being used when a site is not in operation, it is easy to find the source of the problem. By gaining deeper insights into energy wastage and operational performance issues, organisations can often achieve a rapid payback on the monitoring technology and benefit from the ongoing savings.

Informing energy savings

Another powerful reason for advanced energy monitoring is to inform higher-level energy efficiency improvements that go beyond ‘quick-win’ saving measures towards more sophisticated methods of demand reduction. Once an organisation has built a clear picture of energy use and priorities, it becomes easier to create an accurate and convincing case for new capital investments.

For those organisations that are looking to shift their energy usage from the grid to lower carbon, more affordable and resilient supplies, gaining a deeper insight into energy consumption is an essential first step. Combined heat and power (CHP), solar photovoltaic systems and battery storage can often provide a rapid return on investment for the right sites, but senior leaders must be able to make an informed decision and base equipment sizing and specification on accurate energy consumption figures.

It’s often said that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. In the case of energy, you can’t properly control it either, which is why it’s so important to gain full visibility of energy performance and ensure that advanced monitoring and metering strategies sit at the heart of your energy strategy.

The benefits of enhanced energy insights are multiple, including:

  • Revealing energy insights you can act on to improve performance
  • Understanding exactly how, when and where energy is being used and how to reduce waste
  • Optimising your operational efficiency and reducing business risk
  • Improving productivity
  • Unlocking value from your energy assets
  • Analysing asset performance and informing maintenance strategies
  • Informing end-to-end energy management strategies and investment

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