Energy usage as the starting point
Before you embark on a major project to reduce energy consumption, do you know where you currently use energy? That is the vital starting point, as Nik Ashworth explains
The last two years have brought about fundamental changes to commercial energy usage — both in new legislation, such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC), and also with increasingly tight budgets resulting in cuts. The latest findings from npower’s Business Energy Index (nBEI) report revealed that companies rate energy management and reducing energy consumption as important to their business (7.4 out of 10) but monitoring consumption as only fairly important (5.6 out of 10) in this process.
Regardless of the different energy targets each organisation strives to meet, access to accurate and comprehensive data underpins the instigation of an effective energy-management strategy. How can businesses decide on the most effective methods of reducing their usage without first analysing where inefficiencies currently lie?
By using energy consumption as the starting point, businesses can be advised on the most appropriate energy-saving measures to install. Monitoring and targeting software, such as npower’s encompass, can help identify areas of potential energy reduction, therefore enabling the board to ensure it invests in the right areas. Businesses looking to improve their energy efficiency should look for an installer that can survey the building, specify the products and system design, and provide programmable installation, commissioning and lifecycle maintenance. For example, npower’s energy-services division covers all these aspects, offering a seamless solution for organisations committed to meeting energy reduction targets.
Encompass supports the work of our energy-services division, as energy and building managers can monitor specific energy usage and record the improvements brought about by the new measures. Monitoring software tracks business-specific key performance indicators set by the individual building manager so that not only can the effectiveness of a particular initiative be measured and its levels of success fed back to the board, but it also allows energy managers to monitor, measure and minimise their consumption in line with energy-reduction cost measures.
Energy monitoring software also allows facilities managers to spot any discrepancies in energy usage, which can highlight any problem equipment, and can also indicate if building users or tenants have tampered with manual controls. This is particularly useful for buildings such as schools, which are empty for several weeks of the year, as energy levels can be set to holiday mode, and monitoring can ensure the building is kept at the optimum temperature for energy efficiency throughout the break. For the same reasons, monitoring software can also be effective in managed offices as both data and energy usage can be identified floor by floor, via sub-meter installation.
A feature of encompass monitoring software is that it can be used in with Google Maps to highlight which sites in a company’s portfolio are performing best against their energy reduction targets. The sites are categorised in red, amber or green depending on their performance, providing an at-a-glace view on progress across an organisation.
We have been using encompass to manage our own consumption, and this experience has fed into its development — helping us highlight the challenges faced by businesses today. Encompass is currently used across some 30 000 sites, with feedback from energy and building managers using the software fundamental to its ongoing development. Regardless of the size or function of the organisation, being able to personalise what and how their energy-management system monitors and reports is vital to organisations.
An accurate energy-monitoring system is also important for companies taking part in the CRC and the European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading System (EU ETS). Using the encompass system, facilities managers can set up alarms to alert them in terms of cost, carbon or consumption. This means they can track their progress against forecasted emissions and ensure they stay within the purchased emissions allowances.
The comprehensive work of the npower energy-services division supports organisations both in their compliance with current energy legislation and also helps to implement long-term practical goals to deliver energy savings and carbon reductions. While complying with energy legislation is a growing focus for facilities managers, businesses must focus on the bigger picture of ensuring energy efficiency remains a focus and that energy emissions and costs are reduced as a result.
Nik Ashworth is business and public sector manager at npower.