Application: Energy Monitoring
Enterprise-class energy monitoring for commercial and industrial environments
What is energy management?
Energy management is the process of collecting information about where, when, how, and why energy is being used within an organisation, so you can increase efficiency, reduce cost and improve sustainability.
The process usually involves collecting accurate, real-time energy usage data using meters / sensors, analysing this data with software to highlight areas of inefficiency, and taking action based on the results of the analysis.
Why is it important?
Energy management can yield dramatic savings by highlighting areas of inefficiency so action can be taken. This can reduce the overall amount of energy used within a building, site or company, which reduces cost and associated environmental impact.
EpiSensor’s system makes it easy to collect the accurate and real-time data that’s essential for any energy management project.
- Deploy with minimum disruption to operations
- Start small and expand easily
- Suitable for harsh environments
- Best-in-class accuracy
- Wide range of energy monitoring sensors
- Zero data-loss with node level logging
- Security from sensor to server
- Compatible with a wide range of software applications
- More >>
How can I improve energy efficiency?
There are 4 main ingredients that need to be in place before energy savings will be achieved. EpiSensor provides the first ingredient – accurate, granular, real-time data that tells you where and when energy is being used. This data is collected by installing meters, and sub-meters on the main incoming supplies and large energy consumers. This could be electricity monitors installed on HVAC distribution boards, gas meters installed on boilers, or a water meter installed on a production line. The objective is to get as close to full ‘coverage’ as possible, where energy usage can be allocated to an area or function, such as ‘Electricity – Data Centre – Air Conditioning’ and ‘Gas – Kitchen – Boiler 4’.
When the monitoring system is in place, the next task is to analyse and interpret the data, and transform it into useful information. This is typically done using a software tool, which imports the raw data and provides it to a user in a friendly format. An energy management software application can be specialised or general purpose, basic or feature rich – EpiSensor’s systems can export data in open formats to a wide variety of these software packages – see the compatible software section for more information. It is also very important to import data from existing systems that relate to occupancy, production or other factors that influence energy usage – so this data can be ‘merged’ with the energy usage data to see what relationships exist, and to generate Key Performance Indicators.
Turning information into meaningful reports requires (a) some knowledge of the facility and (b) some expertise in energy management. This work can be done in-house by the facilities/engineering team or outsourced to a consultant. The task is to interpret the information the energy management software is producing, combine this with knowledge of the site or process, and produce reports that highlight areas of inefficiency.
When these reports have been produced, an action plan should be agreed that outlines the changes that will be made that will lead to an increase in energy efficiency.
How do I build an action plan?
As a general rule, the action plan can be divided into four main categories or tiers, and each can reduce energy spend by up to 10%.
Tier 1 – Low Hanging Fruit
“Low hanging fruit” tasks refer to inefficiencies that can be easily identified and that are easy to improve. This includes faulty equipment, equipment and lighting that is constantly powered when it’s not being used, gas or water leaks, and settings on existing equipment like a temperature set point on a boiler which can easily be adjusted.
Also in this category is improving energy procurement – with detailed information about energy consumption, it may be possible to negotiate better contracts with the utility provider based on Maximum Import Capacity (MIC) or day/night rates. When the low hanging fruit has been found, it is reasonable that a 10% reduction in energy usage would be achieved.
Tier 2 – Change Behaviour & Improve Control Systems
Implementing control systems for equipment and lighting can significantly reduce energy usage without significant investment. Control lighting based on Passive Infrared (PIR) sensors, add timers to boilers and implement simple closed-loop control systems: if machine X is powered down, also power down machine Y.
Changing behaviour within an organisation is also in this category. Develop incentive schemes that inform and reward building occupants for achieving targets and taking action, such as powering down computers at night and not leaving taps running. This can yield an additional 10% saving as the organisation becomes aware of the energy it’s using, and people are empowered to make better decisions.
Tier 3 – Replace equipment & Install Energy Efficient Technologies
When 20% savings have been achieved by taking action in Tier 1 & 2, it’s time to start investing in infrastructure. With detailed energy usage data and reports, you can calculate the return before making key spending decisions. Upgrading motors to variable speed drive control, replacing lighting with LED technology, adding combined heat and power (CHP) plants, installing renewable power sources like wind turbines and PV and correcting power factor.
Although these activities generally require some capital investment – when the savings can be proven with actual data rather than estimates based on a model, it can eliminate risk and uncertainty associated with investment in energy efficient technologies.
Tier 4 – Change the Process
Obtaining an additional 10% reduction in spend usually requires a fundamental change to the process or operation. For example, in a manufacturing plant where a large order has been received, it would be common practice to run a second or third shift with a reduced workforce to meet production targets. However, for the facility to be open, heating, lighting and other support systems need to operate – is it profitable to run this third shift based on the energy usage associated with it? What is the energy cost per occupant of keeping a library or office building open at night, and does it make financial sense? Is it cheaper to outsource an energy-intensive activity? These items will generally require some change to the operation of a facility, but that can yield an additional saving of between 10% and 20%.
“We were looking for a system that could monitor a wide range of energy parameters, provide clear management information and would keep installation disruption in the plant to a minimum. Having evaluated traditional systems and specialist metering systems, EpiSensor won out in the end providing the best all round fit for our client’s requirements.”
- John Hensey (Managing Director, AKMS)
The benefits of reducing energy usage extend far beyond the financial return. There are many ‘peripheral’ benefits associated with energy management. If you take the example of a data centre – although it is located on one site, it could be serving a much larger part of an organisation. It may be possible to share the associated energy costs by invoicing other business units, and increase the competitiveness of the site that’s hosting the shared resource.
Similarly, if part of a building is sub-let, rather than covering energy costs within a monthly rent agreement, you can accurately monitor electricity, water and gas usage and invoice the tenant on a weekly or monthly basis.
Our environment is delicate, and we have been burning fossil fuels at an unsustainable rate for hundreds of years, while our demand for energy is increasing. Reducing energy usage reduces the associated environmental impact and improves the sustainability of an organisation. Making your organisation more green not only helps the environment, but can also provide a competitive edge that distinguishes your company. This is especially important for manufacturing organisations as sustainability policies are being applied to the full supply chain. You can also add environmental sensors to the system to monitoring parameters like effluent pH, dissolved oxygen, and other items that are important for regularity compliance.
If you have real-time visibility of where and when energy is being used, this information can also be used for predictive maintenance and to diagnose problems quickly. The energy consumption characteristics of a motor that is about to fail is different from that of a healthy machine. This also contributes to health and safety on site. EpiSensor’s systems also qualify for tax relief schemes such as the Accelerated Capital Allowance in Ireland, the Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme in the UK and similar schemes internationally.