Data is business critical

The days when information from a building management system could be tucked away in a filing cabinet in the office of the facilities manager are long gone. Not only has the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme pushed energy use higher up the corporate agenda, utilities bills themselves are set to grab a lot of attention. Data on business energy use is now as important as turnover, revenue and profit. Or it should be.

Current estimates are that the cost of both gas and electricity will have more than doubled against 2009 prices by 2016. This means steady and steep price rises over the next five years. It has never been more important for businesses to understand their energy use – not just how much, but exactly where and why.

Although metering is common, the ability to track, analyse and act upon that information is of increasing importance. Simply tracking the electricity and gas used is not enough. Users must be able to understand usage patterns and to alter the performance of energy-using building equipment. Only building controls can achieve this.

For businesses that buy their energy ahead through utilities contracts, careful planning is central to getting a good deal. With contracts imposing penalties for usage variances, exact energy data means that businesses can understand better what their future energy use patterns will be. Building Management Systems (BMS) enable businesses to build better models of future energy use, and to manage down energy wastage.

Research into registrations for the CRC scheme show that too many companies do not fully understand their pattern of energy use. This demonstrates a short-sighted view of exactly how much insight correct energy data can give. For example, before and after energy use figures can show the effectiveness of energy efficiency programmes or the installation of renewables such as combined heat and power.

For businesses with an eye to consumer opinion, the growing cost of energy and the CRC league table will undoubtedly raise awareness among customers of how businesses are performing. It will no longer be enough to grow your business; you will have to demonstrate that is has been grown energy efficiently. Energy data will be essential for this.

Few businesses would think of spending large amounts of money without first conducting a thorough investigation of financial data. Energy usage data should be regarded in the same way. After all, energy is a growing area of cost, and any steps that can reduce it should be utilised.