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With demand on the rise and fossil fuels on the outs, utilities are turning to energy efficiency to help them bridge the gap. This is the digital spot to trade ideas and lessons learned in this brave new electric world. This group is part of the Energy Management Network.

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How corporations can stay cool while cooling their costs

This summer’s abnormally hot, dry conditions have been sweeping the nation, causing people across the country to take drastic measures to stay cool. According to a forecast by the Climate Prediction Center, all 50 states will see above average temperatures from August until October, and there’s no doubt that the steamy weather will drive a surge in air conditioning and cooling systems from California to Maine.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, commercial buildings account for nearly 20 percent of US energy consumption. So when businesses start cranking the AC during hot summer months, it has a serious impact on national energy spend. In fact, a heat wave can increase building energy consumption by more than 20 percent, mostly due to air conditioning and keeping systems cool.

In one case, a small municipal building in the Washington D.C. area that typically uses 200kWh of energy on a given summer day spent 251kWh of energy each day of a heat wave – at an added daily cost of $318. And considering the American Meteorological Society's Glossary of Meteorology’s defines a heat wave as a period of three or more days where the maximum temperature reaches or exceeds 90°F, a heat wave in Washington D.C. would cost that building nearly $1,000 in added utility costs during one heat wave.

How can buildings – and their occupants – figure out how to stay cool without sacrificing comfort or breaking the bank during these hot streaks?  

Increasingly, we’re seeing utilities helping business customers better manage their energy by offering personalized, data-driven insights into their energy use. Utilities, which maintain decades of building meter data, can leverage analytics to determine how a business can save on surplus energy costs through retrofits or no to low-cost operational adjustments.

Armed with the right customer intelligence, a utility can recommend that a law firm replace its low performing air conditioning with a next-generation system. A switch to high-efficiency air conditioners can reduce energy use by 20–50 percent. Leveraging data analytics, the law firm can invest in energy efficiency measures that will have the greatest impact and deliver a positive ROI through monthly bill savings – especially in the summer.

In addition, or as an alternative, to retrofitting a building, a utility may help a customer identify operational changes they can make to save during heat waves. Through data analysis, the utility might be able to show a medical office that air conditioning systems are running all night when no one is in the building, and recommend that the office adjust its system settings to power down at night. By providing customers with personalized insights on their energy use, utilities can help their customers adopt smarter energy use practices. These insights not only pay off for customers during heat waves, but during most normal temperature days as well.

As temperatures rise, during a heat wave or over the coming years, energy intelligence should be top of mind for businesses. By working with their utility to understand their use and learn where and why energy is wasted during a heat wave, businesses can make smarter energy use decisions with high ROI that and significantly reduce added summertime costs. That means they can put more money toward value-added commercial activity – or ice cream for the building occupants! 

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Comment from a Community member:

A general energy efficiency audit would be the first step. Cooling elevator shafts with open dampers and a new system makes no sense and costs a lot of dollars.

 

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