Neutralise energy price rises with demand management

December’s draft Energy Bill started what will be a protracted process examining the way the UK generates and consumes gas and electricity. But with rise after rise in the cost per kWh hitting British businesses hard, Lisa Gingell of t-mac Technologies examines a new way of looking at energy demand.

In energy terms, less is definitely more – that is, using less definitely means more on the bottom line at the end of the year. The way to save is to make changes in the way energy is used – a tactic which can see price rises neutralised through savings of up to 40% with a system like that provided by t-mac Technologies Ltd.

This system enables businesses to meter and monitor their consumption to pinpoint exactly where energy is being wasted and then make changes and implement equipment and building controls to cut the energy demands of their organisation.

In 2013, mapping energy usage at a one-stop mains meter should be a thing of the past. Data from conventional fiscal metering shows how much energy is being consumed and therefore how much carbon is being emitted – but it doesn’t tell the story of where, when and why.

Demand management

In 2013, demand management is going to be the key to making energy savings. But managing demand means knowing which systems are making those demands and then taking control of them.

Taking the step of bringing on board new technology enables businesses to meter and monitor their energy use, and display that information in a meaningful and informative way. Inefficiencies are then highlighted, and a BeMS system can be used to control areas which are using more energy than they should.

In addition, the system allows FMs to work with building occupiers to cut energy use and remove the ‘human factor’ whereby, for example, air conditioning points are set too high to battle a boiler which does not have sufficient controls.

We can provide clients with hardware and software which allows for energy metering and analysis to work in tandem with building controls. Ultimately this helps to identify inefficiencies in energy consumption and then actively control them.

The system also provides management techniques to cut carbon emissions and utilities expenditure, meet internal and external energy reduction targets and comply with Government legislation like the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

We have helped companies identify major energy reduction opportunities by isolating the hidden energy wasters like poorly performing equipment and inefficient operations. They are all a drain on energy and a source of increased costs.

By focussing on metering, monitoring and implementing controls, businesses should be able to achieve 10-30% energy savings and engaging staff or building occupiers could add a further 10% savings to energy reduction activities. We would expect clients to see a return on investment in just 12 to 18 months – and the system will keep on delivering savings day after day once that ROI is achieved.

Maximum savings

Systems like these need to be properly introduced if the correct information is to be collected and the maximum savings achieved.

Firstly, energy inefficient practices within the business must be identified. The most common issues for companies needlessly spending thousands of pounds a year on energy bills are inefficiently operated systems or equipment which is leaking energy due to poor maintenance.

In this context, metering and monitoring is a must to identify such energy inefficient practices. Mains and sub-metering with a system like this enables companies to gather real-time data on how much energy is being consumed and in which area.

Monitoring equipment performance and building conditions also provides an insight into how the building or piece of machinery is being operated as well as maintained – both of which can be areas of energy wastage. From this monitored data, a business can gain valuable insight into the reasons behind the inefficient metering data and the potential solutions for reducing energy consumption.

Maintenance teams, too, have a part to play. With t-mac they have visibility of equipment performance and remote alerts on equipment inefficiencies, so they can take action and resolve issues through maintenance programmes. This proactive approach reduces costs brought about by downtime and any damage which could be caused by poorly performing equipment.

When connected to machinery, t-mac can send SMS or email alerts to users when pre-set conditions are broken or levels become abnormally high, providing remote access to diagnostics information and again enabling users to either turn the equipment off or up, as applicable. Maintenance teams can control these functions either on-site or remotely over the internet with access to data and control strategies through a central online software suite. This also means that building managers don’t waste their own time and energy controlling and analysing their building’s energy performance.

Environmental and equipment monitoring data can also be viewed, diagnosed and managed through the engineering platform, while building and equipment control tasks and strategies are able to be set-up and managed.

Energy visibility

Saving energy in a business means getting everyone on board. Giving building occupiers visibility of energy management strategies can show them how they impede those strategies, as well as educating them about how they can help.

t-mac’s dashboard software takes real-time energy and environmental data and puts it on display to educate all of the building occupiers on the company’s energy management activities and carbon reduction commitments.

Energy dashboards encourage buy-in, and connecting with staff in this manner allows companies to share the fruits of their energy saving efforts, with transparent and instant results displayed in real-time on plasma screens, PC, tablets and the web.

As a company we have taken the step to monitor and control air conditioning, heating and compressors at our HQ, and in recent months have taken that control to an even finer level – testing wireless ZigBee plugs on all of our office printers. The plugs provide appliance level metering which links into t-mac’s system, and as a result has allowed the company to save 50% consumption on the office devices. ZigBee plugs enabled the printers to be operated with on/off controls between 8am and 6pm, when demand was highest.

The ZigBee experiment shows that no stone need go unturned with our energy management system because it can address both large and small systems – in fact, anything which uses energy. It’s important to keep an eye on finance, though, and we always encourage clients to look at ROI.

With Chancellor George Osborne admitting the economy won’t be back on its feet until 2016, businesses needs to continue looking at innovative ways to save on energy bills. Making 2013 the year of demand management could just turn the next 12 months into the most energy efficient ever.

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