Web-based, low cost energy monitoring: the future is here

Marrying the intelligent functions of a building management system with real time energy monitoring can provide both cost savings and enhanced environmental conformance – especially when the facilitating technology is delivered online, says Anders Norén, Managing Director of Priva Building Intelligence.

BMS (Building Management Systems) has been the way forward for both new build and renovation projects for a number of years. The chance to control building functions such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting and motorised blinds is an extremely attractive proposition for businesses looking to maximise on automation, allowing the building to function in an optimised way.

Systems linked to a BMS typically represent 40% of a building’s energy usage; if lighting is included, this number approaches 70%. Herein then lays a huge opportunity to monitor and manage energy as it allows users to get a handle on this important business lifeblood, get all data into a single system and gain total invoice control – as well as see how much energy is being consumed and, of course, make savings.

Existing, conventional monitoring and targeting systems deploy either additional sub-meters, stand-alone (separate) energy monitoring equipment or somewhat complex interfaces to extract the necessary data. Many will be using expensive dedicated software packages or only standard spread sheets and databases which are laborious, error-prone and typically run unchecked. There has to be a better way.

Online, on budget

A new solution is set to change the corporate approach in this area. Devised and developed by Priva Building Intelligence, TC Energy offers web-based energy monitoring that is convenient, automated and affordable. This is not just blue-sky thinking but derived from market research. According to a survey conducted by Priva in its native Netherlands, a high percentage of potential users (28% in the public sector and 14% of industry) assume that energy monitoring equipment is too expensive, while a further third assumes it is too complicated and requires too much manpower.

Priva has a strong market position in BMS technology and more than a decade in the energy business, but we haven’t put the two together before now. However, TC Energy resolves the issue and the market now has a cost effective, accessible and user friendly energy solution that is fully integrated with the BMS. It’s possible to obtain a lot of additional data from BMS applications that is not supplied by a meter.

The good news for potential users is the price tag, or lack of one. TC Energy is installed and commissioned through Priva’s Approved Partner Network, which offers the software subscription without any capital or set-up charges at low annual costs. The on-going cost could easily form part of the BMS servicing costs, for example.

Energy management might not be new, but TC Energy offers a new method of delivery on an extremely affordable scale. If you have a Priva BMS and a Priva Compri HX Web Engine, TC Energy can be integrated with ease. There is only limited engineering required to start using the system and by configuration of the Priva BMS controllers it is possible to define and set up the entire TC Energy web site reporting on all the energy flows of the building or buildings. We have no doubt about the potential impact and we’re targeting this solution at all buildings and every project that we do.

Driving efficiency

Of course, it’s not Priva driving market demand for technology of this ilk, rather a combination of increasing environmental scrutiny on corporate CO2 emissions, along with the potential to make genuine savings on day-to-day running costs. This means energy management is fast becoming ‘must have’ technology rather than a straightforward nicety.

The beauty of delivering such a system via the web is the ability to transform raw energy data into graphically illustrated, easy-to-read information that can be accessed 24/7 via a secure website. Information available at a glance includes energy load profiles, rate calculations and a multitude of reports available in different formats.

Users can obtain real time data on gas, electricity, water, heating and cooling energy and CO2 emissions. It is also possible to make year-on-year or on-going comparisons to assess energy reduction performance.

Get energised

For those who keep a close eye on the bottom line, using a web-based energy monitoring system can unlock instant fuel savings by pinpointing equipment that’s defective or being switched on in error. After all, it’s widely acknowledged that simply adjusting settings can save 5% in utility bills.

A system such as TC Energy can also help identify what equipment is no longer cost effective to run, underpinning the capital expenditure case for an upgrade. Furthermore, keeping track of high energy use can be the first step in creating a behavioural change programme among employees, helping them shed energy wasting habits.

End users can save on utility bills by adapting building operations to actual patterns of use, i.e. reducing the operating costs of a building by optimising equipment use. Of course, this can be done without waiting for the utility bill to arrive by analysing costs and managing operations in real time.

Low on carbon emissions

From an environmental and corporate sustainability perspective, the drivers are clear. According to the Carbon Trust, the use of energy monitoring technology can identify CO2 savings in the order of 12%. This of course helps better meet obligations such as the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, a ‘cap-and-trade’ scheme to make large organisations pay for the amount of carbon they emit. While for public buildings, better scoring will be promoted with regard to Display Energy Certificates (DECs), which rate a public building’s energy efficiency and carbon impact on a scale from A (best) to G (worst). DECs must be displayed prominently in the lobby of large public-sector buildings that are open to the public, naming and shaming the worst carbon offenders.

Widely documented is the fact that the UK has the world’s toughest targets and by 2050, it aims to cut CO2 emissions by 80%. Business can play its part, but only with the facilitating technology. Here, IT innovation such as TC Energy can help bring about fundamental changes in the ways that companies manage energy. Of course, making it easy to use overcomes one of the biggest barriers to adoption for any type of software. In actual fact, TC Energy is hosted and updated automatically without any people interaction or inconvenience to the user. And despite only being released commercially this month TC Energy already has a number of successful product trial projects completed.

It seems web-based technology such as TC Energy is set to bring energy monitoring and management to the mainstream.

Question the data

Priva has learnt of anecdotal evidence regarding (the lack) energy monitoring awareness. At a public building in Germany, the organisation concerned would send in (once or twice a year) a small team of people to read the meters. However, not only was this error-prone, no one ever checked the data. After five years, someone eventually decided to review the situation and discovered that some of the meters were counting backwards and some weren’t running at all.

Of course, it would also be easy to argue that they never noticed there was a problem because they never saw a visual representation of the meter data, which would have made them immediately question the data. However, a technology such as TC Energy (which is presented concisely and graphically in easy-to-read reports) immediately draws attention to irregularities such as these.

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