Energy management is emerging as a focal point in construction conversations. Electrical contractors (ECs) need to be aware of the latest trends and understand their role in promoting energy management. They also should know how to expand that role.


No one dismisses energy management as a passing fancy. Its growth is evident in data from Verdantix, an independent analyst firm focused on energy, environment and sustainability issues for business. The firm forecasts that the U.S. market for carbon and energy management software will grow to $558 million by 2014.


“America’s revenue for energy management systems in 2010 was $350 million [about 39 percent of the world market], and it is projected to reach $600 million by 2015,” said Stamatis Levantis, power distribution solutions business director for the low- and medium-voltage division of Siemens Industry Inc., Norcross, Ga. 


No need to whip out a calculator. That’s almost 100 percent growth in five years.


Basically, an energy management system uses power monitoring technology—such as metering and networking hardware and the associated software and services—which allows a building owner to check the use of electricity.


“Often, the [energy management system] is the first step in the installation of a larger building automation system [BAS],” Levantis said. 


The BAS uses the energy management system’s energy usage information to automate systems for optimum energy performance and efficiency.


Today’s energy management system software is easy to use, accessible, simple to install and powerful.


“With sophisticated [energy management systems], contractors have more opportunities to bring their expertise to bear and optimize their customers’ operations by offering systems that monitor, track and analyze data from more devices and deliver more extensive analysis and reporting capabilities,” said David Loucks, manager of power solutions and advanced applications at Eaton Corp., Cleveland. 


There are also opportunities for ECs to help organizations commission systems to deliver a new level of efficiency.


With new energy policies and building codes constantly raising building performance bars, organizations are using energy management systems to track and manage power consumption, drive down maintenance costs with out-of-the-box software, and commissioning or retro-commissioning to improve performance of building controls and mechanical systems.


“A study from Texas A&M, ‘Retrospective Testing of an Automated Building Commissioning Tool,’ showed that, without an energy measurement and verification system, HVAC systems drift out of calibration, losing around 6 percent per year of efficiency,” Loucks said.


The intuitive and powerful energy management system software provides more nuanced data to make it easier to identify ways to optimize operations. This also is driving the market.


“For example, software and reporting with the intelligence to provide weather normalization takes the ‘noise’ out of the data, making the underlying energy consumption trends more visible,” he said.


Other market drivers, Levantis said, include municipality-wide green initiatives, LEED certification, the development of a carbon-trading market, increased electricity usage, third-party energy-efficiency certification and benchmarking adoption, smart meters and a shift in revenue opportunity from metering hardware to software and services.


Assumptions that inefficiency will be identified and that there will be some remediation for that inefficiency might also inhibit market growth.


“An [energy management system] is designed to demonstrate how an organization or facility uses energy. If there is no inefficiency found or remediation available, then there is no return on investment,” Loucks said.


Going forward


Levantis predicts there will be significant growth in the hospital, transportation and infrastructure, retail, manufacturing, and data center markets and that there will be a dramatic increase in the use of dashboards and energy management software.


“Both of these systems are typically installed in the same buildings. Dashboards are generally designed to provide the end-user with a simple real-time display of a building’s energy use,” he said.


Building information modeling (BIM) holds a lot of promise in the future, Loucks said. Equipment vendors are adding equipment energy consumption ratings, efficiencies and performance standards to their BIM models.


He said that comparing performance data with values collected from an energy management system helps detect waste and inefficient operation.


Also, as the market advances, both building management systems (BMS) and energy management systems will continue to converge using Ethernet and Internet protocols. As a result, devices, such as submeters, will have communication capabilities built in, enabling commissioning of those devices with a BMS.


“Contractors are in a unique position because they are already talking to building owners and managers and can promote an entire gamut of devices and systems to help manage energy, document the savings and look for additional opportunities,” Levantis said. 


Energy management is a good value add that ECs can promote to owners and increase their business.