Ask for your consumption data from your Energy Supplier
The simplest and most basic way to begin to manage your energy consumption is to monitor your usage levels from your meter readings. Many business premises will have a meter which sends consumption data to your supplier. Requesting your data from them will allow you to identify your average consumption patterns, your lowest running rate and your highest kWh consumption. More importantly, it will allow you to identify where energy is being wasted. For example, if the heating or cooling is operating outside of work hours, or plant has been left running on high when production is at its lowest, then it will be identifiable through the consumption data. Whilst gas suppliers can currently give us a daily overview, data direct from your electricity supplier is more useful, as increasingly commercial premises have meters which download consumption information half-hourly.
How much energy do we really need to use?
In many organisations, energy consumption is a fixed cost, a necessary overhead and traditionally we have paid the bills and thought nothing of it. However, in this age of volatile and ever rising energy costs, we don’t want to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the fact that we don’t actually know what we use, where, and whether it’s being wasted. For example, we have heard from a well-respected energy manager who, through analysis of consumption data for a hospital laundry, identified high levels of usage out of hours. Their normal operating days were Monday to Thursday. To the shock of the Hospital Management, consumption analysis showed clearly that as well as the normal Mon-Thur consumption, the laundry was operating, and consuming, Sat-Sun as well. Investigations showed that a member of staff there had a profitable side-line going; they’d been using the facilities to launder football kit from a local Saturday League for at least 3 years.
Simple Spreadsheets can show wasted energy
Whilst this sort of occurrence tends to be an exception rather than the norm, it does highlight that commercial energy consumption has historically been seen as a necessary but relatively insignificant overhead, justifying little management attention. Ever-increasing costs mean it can no longer be ignored, next to staff costs it is the second highest financial liability, and in some energy intensive industries, the single biggest operational cost. A simple excel spreadsheet can graph your consumption levels, making it easier to identify where there is unexpected or wasted energy consumption. In our experience, every client has had some sporadic or unplanned energy consumption, out of working hours, that could be minimised through simple steps.
Identify your significant energy users and consumers, start to forecast consumption
For those who want to put in place more sophisticated controls, sub metering of significant users and highest consumers is the next step. This means that specific energy management can be undertaken and forecasting can be effected. There are some great bits of software out which track consumption, align it with the electronic building management systems (BMS) and monitor specific and significant consumers within the business, sending alerts to flag up unplanned consumption. Some software, linked to BMS or standalone units, can control lighting, heating, cooling, water temperature and other building functions, allowing a level of control and management which will ensure all energy consumed within the building is controlled and accounted for.
Try the simple things first, look at your consumption data
Back to basics though, if just want to make a start and simply better manage your consumption, through analysis of your usage, taking regular meter readings or obtaining regular data from your energy supplier is the first step. If you take measures to minimise the excess usage, or just reduce the consumption spikes out of hours, it’s this information that it will make a practical difference – and who knows, once you’ve seen the benefits you might want to install a more robust and comprehensive Energy Management System.