According to the Division of Energy Resources (DOER) for the Rebuild Massachusetts Program’s strategic energy management booklet, it is useful to think of energy management as a three-phase process within which the effort and resources expended on gaining control of energy use, maintaining control as a continuous business process, and investing in measures to improve energy performance vary over time.
Mike Kearney, senior director of energy and environmental solutions for the Building Technologies division of Siemens Industry Inc., Buffalo Grove, Ill., said the best approach is to determine where, when and how much energy is consumed; the condition of the equipment and systems in the building; and how these pieces interact.
“A good strategic approach begins with gathering information through metering and conducting an extensive analysis of the data to completely understand the facility, enabling the owner and contractor to make fully informed, logical decisions,” he said.
Dwight Klippel, business development and principal consultant of Energy Consultants Inc., Carmel, Ind., suggested gathering at least two years’ worth of monthly utility costs data, including electricity, natural gas, district steam and chilled water (if supplied from outside the facility), and water and sewer usage.
“The development of a five-year plan is a good approach, beginning with the low-hanging fruit, such as lighting and deferred maintenance, that have a fast payback, toward initiatives that require larger capital investments,” he said.
Marty Aaron, product line manager, software and meters business unit for Eaton Corp., Cleveland, said that even if the process of developing an energy management plan begins with just a few meters that it’s possible to improve on just that. You could use more intelligent Web-based equipment with onboard Web servers that communicate over the Internet or meters with other communication gateways, with no need for additional infrastructure.
“Intelligent meters provide a multitude of energy values that are easily accessed and provide the owner and contractor with a simple, powerful type of energy management system,” she said.
Commitment and implementation
The facility owner must understand the motivation for improving energy consumption before a strategic approach can be effectively developed.
“For example, is [the goal] to save money or to be sustainable?” Kearney said.
The answers determine the amount and types of personnel and staff resources that are committed and the amount of financing necessary for the projects. Once the owner has determined the goals, resources and funding, a central point of contact for the contractor performing the energy-efficiency work must be chosen.
The facility owner also has to understand the financial, environmental and maintenance benefits of an energy management program, Klippel said.
“A well-developed strategic energy management plan saves money on utility bills, reduces greenhouse gases, and reduces maintenance costs through using longer lived equipment that operates with less energy, requires less frequent replacement, and has warranty coverage,” he said.
According to Aaron, implementation unfolds in four steps: recognizing and embracing a strategy, developing a plan, executing the plan, and measurement and continuous improvement.
“The owner must be committed to tracking performance year after year to ensure that reduction goals, whether in the form of greenhouse gases or energy consumption, are met,” she said.
Contractors can help
To take advantage of these opportunities, the contractor should understand the customer’s needs, goals and challenges to provide the best solutions.
“Contractors must be able to customize an energy management program for each customer and have an in-depth knowledge of the latest efficient technologies to design the most effective system,” Kearney said.
The contractor can partner with an energy service company to also solve the customer’s financial needs and guarantee performance results.
“Contractors can add significant value when they are aware of the owner’s needs,” Aaron said.
Contractors are already working in the building, so they can use their presence to identify opportunities for metering, improved monitoring, and more automated building and lighting controls to enable the owner to better manage data and energy to reach performance goals.
“Today’s technology doesn’t require massive amounts of education, enabling contractors to easily … learn what they need to promote an energy management strategy to customers,” she said.
Energy management strategies are going to be critical to businesses going forward, as utility rates rise and interest in sustainability grows, Klippel said.
“Electrical contractors that can partner with other energy management providers to bring the energy savings solutions to their clients that they need, will differentiate themselves and add value to their offerings,” he said.
BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 and firstname.lastname@example.org.