The Energy Revolution: Energy Management Systems

Ram Venkat, Power Solutions Specialist, Digital Energy Division, Schneider Electric UK&I

Energy efficiency is part of the vocabulary of modern building owners, operators, and occupants. A greater awareness of unsustainable energy consumption, coupled with advances in generation and energy management technology, has led to the ‘Energy Revolution’ around the world.

The consequent landscape is complex – varying legislations and governmental guidelines, a global measurement system, and multiple local standards to adhere to. Building owners and operators are therefore unsurprisingly confused with the choice of solutions available to address these requirements and put them ahead of the sustainability and efficiency curve.

Clearing up the confusion

Any energy consumption needs to be measured accurately, and then further analysed to:

  1. Track energy consumption across the network
  2. Identify patterns of energy usage
  3. Map above identified patterns to occupant behaviour, and weather factors
  4. Put in place strategies to optimise consumption armed with the above analysis
  5. Plan energy sourcing and load shedding

An Energy Management System (EMS), sometimes referred to as Building Energy Management System (BEMS) is the crux of these solutions. With a clear need for such systems, Building Owners and Managers are often surprised at the complexities and financial setbacks associated with an EMS.

An EMS is a tool to visualise and analyse energy parameters, primarily consumption (KWh) and power quality. The latter is made up of power factor, current and voltage harmonics, sags and swells, and other anomalistic current and voltage behaviours. While most organisation tend to focus on consumption mapping, power quality is a crucial group of parameters to monitor to avoid penalties by the utility, particularly in the manufacturing, data centre, and multi-use facility sectors.

Certain EMS’s may also have condition-monitoring features for electrical assets, and the capability to monitor more than just traditional electrical infrastructure, including UPS systems, thermal monitoring systems, etc. It is key to note that an EMS has minimum to no element of network control or automation, where SCADA systems (or Power Management System/PMS) operate.

The next step – demystifying the range of EMS solutions available in the market:

  1. The Data Analysis Solution

These solutions, usually offered on a subscription-only basis, have features of an EMS, but no focus on power quality, electrical network monitoring, or device health. They tend to focus more on visualisation of data and are excellent if your only aim is to understand energy consumption behaviours across your facility. These systems may also have features in continuous improvement, equipment effectiveness, and process flow, which can be interesting for industrial manufacturing sites.

The standout for such systems is of course the dynamic dashboarding, featuring drag and drop data modelling. The resolution of data collection is usually above one-minute intervals, which is seen as a comparatively low resolution, particularly for alarm response and emergency shutdown procedures.

  1. The Engineered EMS

Engineered EMS are essentially data aggregators and edge-level monitoring systems for electrical devices including metering and breakers. Resolution of data collection is extremely high depending on meter capabilities, and data is observed live. Therefore, this type of a solution is preferably on-site. While energy analysis dashboards can be easily engineered, where the EMS stands out is with power quality monitoring and reporting, and electrical network status monitoring. The former is dependent on the type of metering on site and is recommended particularly in manufacturing facilities where bad power quality is commonplace due to prevalence of drives. Power quality issues can be diagnosed with great depth to recommend solutions such as power factor correction or harmonic mitigation.

Electrical network status monitoring starts with live single diagram views of the network, from where the user can drive into each individual device. These devices can vary from a meter, to a breaker, a UPS, or even VSDs – anything ‘smart’ and ‘electric’. The granular data that can be obtained for breakers can go to the extent of breaker condition monitoring, life expectancy, and an indication of number of trips/reset cycles. The EMS also functions as an alarming system. These systems are fully scalable and require physical hardware infrastructure and software licensing – available either as a capital purchase, or as Software as a Service (SaaS).

  1. The Sustainability Tracker

These systems are a hybrid between the latter two, with further emphasis on sustainability initiatives. Such systems provide the flexibility of dashboard creation akin to the Data Analytics solution, but without the critical alarming, live monitoring, or power quality analysis that the engineered EMS solution provides. These systems are usually delivered as a service with bureau insights on the data as required and agreed upon in the SLAs.

They provide a powerful tool for energy management teams to track and report sustainability, particularly across multiple sites and geographies. Such systems usually sit a level above the engineered EMS, which can share its data across platforms. Therefore, there is usually no IT hardware required for this solution. These systems are most likely offered in a subscription only model, with mobile interfaces also available.

Equipping your facility with the infrastructure to enable granular monitoring is vital to achieving sustainability and efficiency. Understanding the increasingly complex range of solutions available is the first step in achieving this and is often the hardest part. With the right solution, professionals can thrive in today’s ‘Energy Revolution’, with sustainable energy management.