Looking closely at the demand side
As National Grid looks more closely at demand-side energy-management techniques for electricity, and new legislation changes how many companies pay for energy, Malcolm Anson considers the implications for building controls and BEMS.
For a long time, energy has been low down the list of costs for most companies in the UK. Unless your company is a heavy energy user in industry, it's very likely that energy is simply lumped in with office rent or even retail space.
However, a number of changes are coming in 2016 that seem very likely to put energy very much on the radar of business managers — and with it, energy efficiency. By now, it's likely that readers of MBS have come across Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES). These are linked to a building's EPC rating (Energy Performance Certificate). Buildings with an EPC of F or G will be banned from the commercial rental market from 2018. Some estimates are that this will affect about 20% of the UK's commercial lettable space.
It is fairly easy to be cynical about the actual impact of this sort of legislation, especially when Part L of the Building Regulations is so often unenforced. Still, the rules will be in place in 2018, and anyone who owns a building at the lower end of the EPC scale had better get their skates on if they want to improve energy efficiency in time to prevent a significant devaluation of their property.
However, there is another regulation that is heading towards many businesses this year, which could have far more impact on what they pay for energy. And it's not something that can be ignored because it's delivered and enforced by the energy companies. P272 is a regulation that will move around 160 000 business into the group that has its electricity usage settled on a half-hourly basis.
If your organisation has any advanced non-half hourly meters (NHH) in the profile class 05 to 08, these will now need to be changed to half-hourly settlement. Ofgem is also planning to do the same in the future for profile class 03 to 04 as well. The aim is to create an entirely 'smart energy' market.
This may not seem like a major change. However, once a business is moved into the half-hourly category a number of other rules on electricity usage and costs apply. And all of them will affect how a business measures and pays for its energy. Firstly, organisations in the half-hourly metering market are subject to energy prices based on time-of-day that the electricity is used. Peak periods, known as Triads, are particularly expensive.
Overall, electricity will become a more volatile cost for most businesses, and one that they will need to get a firm grip on. It's here that building controls and BEMS will certainly come to the fore. Ofgem's aim in making these changes is to encourage promotion of energy efficiency — and it certainly seems highly likely to achieve that. Identifying an organisation's energy-use patterns will be a vital first step for those who are just entering the 'half-hourly' category.
However, it is not all bad news. There are some benefits to being on the half-hourly metering system, and one of these is that it will be easier to engage with demand-response activities to shift electricity demand away from peak periods. Those who have been in the controls market long enough know that demand response was very big in the late 1970s, when it was better known as ‘maximum demand' or 'load shedding'. It seems that if you stick around long enough, things come back into fashion.
For building and energy managers faced with this energy challenge today, the modern building energy management system is far more sophisticated than those of 30 or 40 years ago.
The first key steps will be to identify and remove areas of energy waste. Are lights and cooling left on at the weekend when not required? Are lights set to auto-off? Can the chiller be turned off for 10 minutes? Have some systems been running on manual over-ride for longer than necessary?
Now is the time to speak to your controls specialist and start to get to grips with your electricity-usage patterns. A good controls strategy can help avoid the penalty prices of high-tariff time periods. There are also a number of demand response aggregate services setting up that can help even small businesses benefit from National Grid financial incentives.
Ofgem is planning ahead to deal with major changes in how the UK generates and uses energy. It is only right that building managers and owners should start doing the same.
Malcolm Anson is president of the Building Controls Industry Association.