Getting energy into the psyche

If the developed nations of the world are to meet the targets set by various governments at the Kyoto World Summit, they are going to have to take a much more affirmative approach. Preempting any further legislation or taxation, which many see as inevitable, individuals and businesses are obliged to implement effective energy policies now – before they are forced to.
The term ‘energy / building management system’ can cover a plethora of schemes from relatively simple lighting and heating control to the management of individual spaces, security and safety facilities. Most would regard the principle benefits of a management system as controlling the environment from a comfort and efficiency point of view. It is here that many – perhaps even most – systems fall down. Comfort is usually easily determined; people tend to complain if a building is too hot, too cold, too stuffy and so forth. The energy efficiency however, often goes unchecked.
Let us make one thing very clear from the start, building or energy management systems, however simple or sophisticated, are mere machines. They do what they are told and if they don’t fulfil the user’s needs it is usually the fault of the user in some way. That being stated, what most facilities managers and building engineers lack is the information needed to assess how the system is working. They also frequently lack the cooperation of the occupants in helping to optimise the system.
Much has been mooted about the need to win the hearts and minds of people when it comes to energy saving. But, even the most energy conscious staff must develop new habits to maximise the potential of energy management.
At the same time, there is the need to optimise the solution in line with actual energy usage and the function of the building. Most systems are specified during the build or refurbishment of a building, when its actual usage is either unknown or at best, a theoretical prediction. What this suggests is that proper energy and infrastructure audits are at least desirable or even a prerequisite.
For example, while a management system may control when heating or cooling is turned on and off, it will not recognise whether there is potential for, say, energy saving variable speed drives (VSDs) in fan or pump operations.
Similarly, no system can identify the possibility of deploying a modern voltage regulator to outdoor lighting to reduce consumption.
Energy audits can determine actual energy usage, patterns of consumption, potential for energy savings, and improvements to the building management controls. What they can also determine is the need for training and business change. This extends far beyond reminders to turn off the lights and covers a much more embracing awareness of energy conservation practice. Some of the projects already completed by Schneider Electric’s consultancy team have even addressed attitudes of staff at home. Many will have realised how energy aware children are – by taking messages into the home, the family of staff supports the notion of considering energy use everywhere.
Schneider Electric used its energy audits internally before deploying them across the industry. Across its various sites in the UK, the company has successfully changed practices and habits, identified areas for inexpensive equipment modifications and economised on energy usage, all with negligible disruption to operations. At the company’s Swindon site alone, savings have been generated in excess of 100,000kWh per year – a reduction of over 20%.
Some Schneider Electric customers, that have already had an extended energy survey undertaken by our consultants, realise that this was merely a snapshot in time and have requested that we revisit the audit a year or so later to assess the changes. This shorter second audit can sometimes be more beneficial than the first as both customer and advisor understand the real issues at the site, and the consultant ensures that the new recommendations are based more on practical applications rather than theoretical ideas.
This clearly illustrates that a good energy management programme should not deal with a snapshot in time, but with continued monitoring, maintenance and auditing, sound energy efficient systems will be optimised, creating a meaningful long term difference to the company and the environment we share.