Capitalising on energy and power monitoring systems

14th November 2019
Anna Flockett

Energy costs are consistently one of a company’s largest outgoings. That’s whether they pay their energy bills directly or as part of their building rent. Even as technology and business evolves this shows no sign of changing – the rise of the on-premise data centre demands an immense amount of power, and is putting increased pressure on company utility bills.

Soon, however, this pressure will be directed downwards at the managerial level. The updated ISO 50001 energy standard shows that, slowly but surely, energy accountability is coming. All executives will be held responsible for their department’s energy usage and expected to take an active role in optimising it to save costs. Yet this can be difficult without adequate insight – a CIO with responsibility over his company’s server room will struggle to disentangle the information they need from the company energy bill.

To deliver the granularity needed, executives need an energy management system that leverages real-time monitoring, IoT-driven insight and automated tools to analyse and recommend efficiencies and energy savings. With this information, executives will have what they need to work with their teams to optimise departmental energy usage.

Taking responsibility
As sustainability climbed the corporate agenda, the common approach followed by larger businesses has been to appoint an energy or operations manager. The rationale was usually to ensure someone had responsibility over the energy efficiency of the company building or facility, and to drive sustainability efforts in the name of cutting consumption and costs.      

However, taking this approach alone is no longer enough. An energy manager plays an invaluable role in advising and guiding efficiency efforts, but their impact is lessened when other business leaders don’t buy in. A CIO will rarely consult with an energy manager when they sign off on a new batch of servers, but this can cause a considerable leap in energy consumption. More efficient, sustainable businesses aren’t possible unless every part of the organisation, from top to bottom, takes responsibility.

From a regulatory perspective, energy accountability is the clear direction of travel. The 2018 revised energy management standard ISO 50001 places a much greater emphasis on the role of executive leadership in making energy management a key part of overall strategy. Senior management is held responsible for how their departments use energy, and are expected to make efforts to improve the energy management system while setting their own targets for efficiency.

Increasingly, energy management is no longer one person’s responsibility; it’s everyone’s business. However, for many it represents unfamiliar territory. Traditionally, operations and building management is kept very distinct from other business functions, with little crossover between personnel. Interpreting and making use of building and energy information will be a steep learning curve for most without help and guidance.

Taking charge
Energy consumption costs can be kept in check and even reduced when the right strategy and technology are combined. Energy management is clearly in an organisation’s best interest. By monitoring and setting targets for energy consumption, a business can potentially save millions in energy bills. The CilmateWorks Foundation estimates that if more was done to improve energy efficiency in the industrial and buildings sectors, over 3.2 trillion in savings could be gained by 2030.

To achieve this, collaboration is a must. Departmental leads should be encouraged to work more closely with the building management team. Doing so will give them much needed guidance, energy saving strategies and a greater appreciation of how their operations translate into energy usage and costs. The underlying objective should be to find ways of doing things more efficiently, chiefly by wasting less energy.

Yet business leaders must first lay the foundations in their own departments. To begin with, they need to be aware of how much energy they are consuming, why and where. This information is available to them by embracing connected technology, embedding IoT-connected devices in their assets. This will allow them to take stock of energy consumption data, and use that information to spot wasted energy and make efficiencies.

Senior managers are demanding quick, clear and accurate information from their systems and reporting tools. The expectation is their facility teams will be able to provide them with this, and highly accurate and intelligent meters like the ION9000 will help the teams collect energy usage data and convert it into easily understood and actionable insight.

Smart asset management makes good business sense. From PCs to phone systems and digital displays, office equipment makes up 15% of all energy used in UK offices and is a significant contributor to energy costs. Effective equipment management can reduce their consumption by up to 70%.

However, senior leadership – who may not have had significant experience in energy or operations fields – could greatly benefit from solutions that interpret the findings for them. Software solutions, like Schneider Electric’s Power Monitoring Expert (PME), can analyse the data and present it to the viewer in a simple, easy to understand visual format. This will help them to gain insight and make corrective decisions faster.

PME will also aid ISO 50001 compliance efforts. ISO 50001 is unusual in that doesn’t stipulate organisations hit set targets for efficiency, but put in place processes that ensure a company’s energy management system is being improved constantly. PME Supports this goal by providing the infrastructure to accurately track energy performance indicators consistently over the long term. This information helps managers build the structured approach they need to systematically assess and continually improve energy efficiency performance.

As well as reducing consumption, a connected energy and asset management solution can help you put in place a proactive, preventative maintenance strategy. Instead of relying on occasional, scheduled maintenance checks to ensure your assets are in good working order, a connected solution can also give you real-time insight into equipment condition. Issues can be resolved quickly before they result in breakdown and expensive repairs while your department loses time and money.

Who is responsible for energy management in your company? If it rests in the hands of a single team or energy manager then you may be in danger of falling behind. The latest standards expect all business leaders to take responsibility for their department’s use of energy and work to make it more sustainable. This isn’t a chore but an opportunity. Cutting energy consumption will reduce your utility bills, leaving you with more to invest in new hires and technology. Ultimately, energy efficiency equals competitive advantage.

Article written by, Ram Venkat at Schneider Electric.

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