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The ultimate power couple: Energy management and data technologies

Strategic energy management (SEM) programs are expanding beyond the industrial sector to commercial and institutional customers. These programs and data management technologies are two of the biggest opportunities to reduce energy use at large facilities. Not only do they save energy and decrease carbon emissions, they also help utilities build long-term relationships with clients and introduce them to additional efficiency programs.

In a new report, released today, ACEEE analyzed 26 programs in the United States and Canada to evaluate how they are merging these opportunities to maximize energy savings. Our report finds that such programs help organizations identify effective capital projects as well as operations and maintenance actions. It explores the potential for more programs and lays the foundation for accelerating their adoption across North America.

But what exactly do SEM programs do? They give organizations structure and methodology to discover opportunities, implement projects, and maintain practices that save energy. Energy management information systems (EMIS) help customers increase energy savings by automating data collection, integrating analysis of energy and manufacturing process information, thereby enabling data-driven process control. Integrating EMIS into SEM programs can boost the effectiveness of both approaches and ensure the persistence of energy savings by embedding standard practices in facilities.

ACEEE’s report, Features and Performance of Energy Management Programs, reveals that 11 programs focus on EMIS and there are 19 SEM programs that will support EMIS implementations. More programs are being developed.

SEM administrators are expanding their programs, originally targeted at industrial customers, to meet the needs of corporate and institutional customers. They have added capacity to meet customers at many points in their energy management journey and guide them to their endpoint, which could include a certified energy management system such as ISO 50001. SEM programs also help companies integrate and process data using EMIS and other smart manufacturing technologies.

The result? Energy savings—and increased use of complementary efficiency programs. SEM program participants take greater advantage of prescriptive and standard utility offers than non-participants. They spur continuous customer improvement through consecutive energy-saving projects. This changes the conversation between administrators and customers from “Will you do a project next year?” to “What project(s) will you do next year?” 

We propose that SEM programs become a platform for customer engagement. Program administrators can improve their customer service by moving from intermittent, project-driven engagement to continual engagement about energy management.

Based on case studies, our report describes the features and challenges of implementing SEM and EMIS programs across North America. We discuss the potential for additional programs and their impacts. We conclude with recommendations for SEM program design and evaluation, as well as policy considerations to develop and deploy more programs.  

To encourage program growth, ACEEE will support the North American SEM Collaborative, a volunteer-led initiative of SEM program stakeholders focused on advancing the scope and efficacy of SEM programs. ACEEE will host a 2019 SEM Summit prior to our 2019 Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Industry in Portland, Oregon, August 12-14, 2019.

The summit will feature presentations and discussions on energy management best practices, program structures, measurement of savings persistence, and customer engagement. Our 2019 Summer Study panels will also explore smart manufacturing and other energy management topics including SEM, EMIS, and ISO 50001. We hope you attend and participate in these events. Together, we can promote energy management systems for our largest energy-consuming facilities to reduce energy waste and carbon emissions in the near future.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on January 11, 2019

It seems that, as with many energy efficiency programs, the difficulty will be in getting customers to buy in. So many energy and money saving upgrades are already available that pay for themselves in short order that aren't being fully taken advantage of, meaning the challenge of converting customers to these type of programs remain. I think this is one of the key questions utilities will need to tackle moving forward

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