Energy monitoring essential under regulatory reforms

Schneider Electric, energy monitoring, CRC, DEC
Identifying energy-efficiency opportunities — Zina Shair.

Continuing regulatory reforms make it necessary for businesses and organisations of all sizes to implement a robust energy-monitoring system and identify areas where improvements can be made, as Zina Shair of Schneider Electric explains.

The issue of climate change is never far from the political agenda, and businesses are now under increasing pressure through regulatory reform to reduce the impact they have on the environment. The first step to a cleaner, greener business model is to understand where energy is currently being used and to utilise this information to pinpoint potential savings. This is where new legislation introduced in 2013 really has a finger on the pulse of what organisations must do better.

In January 2013, the Government introduced Display Energy Certificates to drive energy-efficiency savings in public-authority buildings. Applicable to premises greater than 500 m2 which are frequently visited by the public, the legislation requires an official certificate to be displayed to inform visitors about the use of energy in the building. The certificate will also display a rating for the building, based on its energy usage (ratings are A to G, where A is the most efficient and G is the least efficient).

The regulations stipulate that the analysis of the building’s energy use must be put together by an appointed energy assessor, who is tasked with gathering data about the operation from actual metered energy readings obtained over a 12-month period. Using a pre-defined methodology the building’s energy rating is calculated from the obtained data and an advisory report is written by the assessor to highlight where energy use is deemed excessive or inefficient.

Far from being a voluntary programme where public authorities are able to opt in and out, there is a penalty scheme for non-compliance. The penalties vary from £500 for not displaying a valid DEC at all times, to £1000 for failing to possess a valid advisory report. Once the fines are paid, it is still necessary to commission the right documents and display them correctly — otherwise further penalties can be incurred.

The Government’s approach of encouraging better analysis of energy usage to highlight problem areas on a very local scale has been replicated for big commercial businesses too. From October 2013, high-performance companies are required to report their greenhouse-gas emissions in their annual directors’ report as part of an amendment to the Companies Act 2006 (Strategic and Directors’ Reports) Regulations 2013.

How does the energy performance of your building stack up?

Referred to as ‘carbon reporting’, the legislation paves the way for businesses to make real progress in reducing carbon emissions by forcing the subject onto the boardroom agenda and ensuring directors are held accountable to shareholders for their performances in this area. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has estimated that carbon reporting will contribute to saving four million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2021, so the potential impact of the new regulations is substantial.

The legislation is by no means prescriptive about the methodology required to collect energy use and emissions information, which has the potential to cause some issues. When tracking greenhouse gases from activities taking place across large buildings, multiple sites and even multiple countries, the energy-assessment team responsible for the figures may be justified in feeling overwhelmed about how to pull all the data together accurately.

One way that organisations of any size can collect data about their energy use is through a monitoring system, which allows the user to collect and interpret their data in one central place. Schneider Electric, for example, offers the Power Monitoring Expert (PME) to do just that.

This PME offering is part of our StruxureWare software and can combine all of the independent mechanisms of metering, monitoring and control in one simple-to-use interface. The scalable technology has been designed for medium-sized buildings through to large enterprises and multi sites, so it can be used by both large public authorities and quoted companies to meet their energy monitoring requirements under 2013 regulatory reforms.

Working on a web-based platform, PME software collects and organises data gathered from a building’s electrical network and interprets it as meaningful, actionable information via the intuitive web dashboard. PME retrieves data from meters, breakers, drives, Acti 9 miniature breakers and relays to accurately monitor energy consumption. The software then calculates the cost of energy such as water, air, gas, electricity and steam — based on tiered rates, time of use, demands charges and taxes.

With PME, users can see, measure and manage energy and power data across an entire organisation in order to identify areas for improvement and verify the effectiveness of energy-saving measures. Users can also apply the data to comparative calculations and identify further areas where savings can be made. All this information can be easily shared with key stakeholders and other relevant personnel.

Whether you are looking to improve your energy monitoring because it is now required of your organisation, or you are a small to medium sized business looking to cut costs at a time when fuel bills are on the up, by introducing a robust energy-management system it is possible to identify even small changes that will make a big difference to the bottom line. Software, such as PME, can put the information at your fingertips to give you actionable insight to make better, informed decisions and improve efficiencies to lessen the impact your organisation has on the environment and help the Government to meets its ambitious targets for a greener UK by 2025.

Zina Shair is power solutions manager at Schneider Electric.

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