Power Profits: Enterprise Energy Management Software Provides Data to Minimize Consumption, Improve Reliability and Reduce Overhead

Article excerpt

Risk, in terms of energy cost, quality and reliability continues to be a primary concern for industrial and commercial businesses. Some regions have experienced radical price fluctuations due to the introduction of a deregulated market structure. Power industry experts have also voiced concerns about the possibility of deteriorating reliability due to the stress open market energy trading will have on an already overburdened grid infrastructure. The August 2003 East Coast blackout highlighted the challenges already faced in coordinating interconnected power delivery systems.

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Enterprise energy management (EEM) technology can help property owners and managers mitigate these risks and maximize return on the energy investment across multiple facilities. Systems provide a combination of accurate energy metering and submetering, embedded power quality/reliability monitoring and a cost-effective Internet-based communications infrastructure with Web-enabled software to deliver relevant information in a timely fashion. Managers can use this information to make the best decisions about how energy is purchased, used and sub-billed, choices that may lower costs, increase tenant satisfaction, enhance productivity in industrial plants and ultimately boost profits.

REDUCING CONSUMPTION AND COSTS

There are many options for replacing inefficient loads, including variable-speed drives, lighting retrofits and HVAC system upgrades. However, studies have shown that businesses can typically experience an additional 10 percent in energy savings by using an EEM system to support an ongoing measurement and verification program. EEM systems help managers ensure return on investment by delivering the detailed information necessary to verify the savings from equipment upgrades. The system will also identify where loads should be rescheduled or automatically controlled to reduce or eliminate peaks in the demand for power that can incur huge penalties from the utility.

An EEM system also gives operations personnel a range of analysis capabilities that support proactive maintenance to extend equipment life. Alarms and remote control features will alert staff to out-of-tolerance conditions and help them respond quickly to avoid equipment failures and perform maintenance only when required. All of this translates to lower operating costs and reduced labor.

Case Study

The Building Automation Systems group at the University of Chicago used EEM historical usage data to compare the efficiency of chilled water systems and proved an older system was almost 50 percent less efficient than a newer system. This strongly supported the group's original recommendation to retire the older system.

EEM data were also used to audit a recent study done by an energy consultant. After the consultant's recommendations were implemented, the system quickly verified and quantified the savings gained by these measures. The data were used to create a report for upper management that helped show the benefits of energy-focused initiatives and hopefully will lead to increased funding for these projects.

LOAD PROFILING FOR PROFIT

Whether a business draws from outside expertise for energy consulting, energy audits or retrofit services, having an EEM system in place is a very good idea. New EEM systems accurately profile a plant's energy consumption, breaking down energy use by facility, building, feeder and even by major loads. Armed with this information, management can make the most appropriate decisions on equipment retrofits, installation of "peak-shaving" generators or power reliability upgrades. Having a history of load profiles for each facility, and an aggregate profile for all buildings across a portfolio, can also help energy managers compare utility rates and choose the best supplier or negotiate a better contract with their current supplier.

AVOIDING POOR POWER QUALITY

Poor power quality can negatively affect a number of types of loads running in an industrial or commercial facility, especially automation and computer equipment. …