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Climate change, energy policy and achieving compliance through cloud-based energy management

'Factory Chimney Smoke' by Ralf Vetterle Source: pixabay.com CC0 License

Climate change has prompted countries the world over to accelerate efforts toward drastically cutting Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from industries’ biggest polluters, while also greatly emphasizing the need for increased energy and resource efficiency.

Policies like the EU’s 2010 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) and 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive provide a framework for such activities as well as a stable environment for investment decisions to be taken. 

While adherence to some industry standards and best practices are optional, business and real estate owners would do well to pursue compliance to mandatory and non-mandatory directives and standards, which would not only decrease regulatory risk but also promote long-term sustainability and improve stakeholder relations.

Energy saving: key to driving sustainability

Energy saving is a critical part of any initiative aimed at driving sustainability. It’s the job of the energy manager to analyse how and when energy is used across a business/plant/building or site and use the insights provided by their data analysis activities to devise appropriate measures to identify energy waste, opportunities for savings, determine environmental impact, drive down costs and so on.

Data analyses performed by energy managers traditionally involve complex energy modelling techniques and the application of mathematical formulas, often done in Excel, to calculate energy baselines, identify trends as well as determine the impact of external variable data such as degree days and how these influence energy consumption, demand and ultimately, savings.

Doing these complex mathematical calculations in Excel is a time-consuming and ineffective exercise requiring the collection of data from disparate sources and systems (the data is often rife with errors), manual entry of this data into custom formats and charts, and expert-level knowledge of Excel functions.

Who has the time to go through a 5-step process to build a combination chart to display the correlation between kWh and Cooling Degree Days (CDD)? Or spend an hour trying to figure out Excel’s regression capabilities in the hope to come up with the equation depicts the chiller input kW with varying chiller load?

Sound familiar? 

The truth is, these mathematical formulas are key to helping energy managers study different data sets to determine whether any relationships exist between them. This is especially true for regression analysis where formulas are useful in establishing metrics to determine if two simultaneous events are related in real time, or using historical data to identify insights that will facilitate their decision-making.

Similarly, energy service companies use mathematics and formulas to calculate future consumption patterns and identify new trends should they introduce changes to the environment, allowing them to confidently capture the expected return on investment on a project proposal.

Streamlining energy data analysis 

The good news is that analysing your data does not have to be the laborious, manual task as you’ve come to know it, spending more time importing, exporting and manipulating data, rather than focusing on what the data is telling you about your facility/plant/building or site.

Cloud-based technology has automated many of the time-intensive tasks associated with collecting, analysing and reporting data through a unified platform. Data can be analysed more efficiently and effectively with robust analytics tools that eliminate the complexity and more importantly, the manual calculation of formula-based energy equations to achieve the insights needed in the decision-making process toward energy-saving actions and compliance to industry standards and legislation.

Ten reasons for using cloud-based energy management solutions

1. Accessibility

Cloud-based systems allow users to access information with greater flexibility. By utilizing a cloud-based system, users can store information from many different data acquisition systems and access and analyze this information from different sites with one application. In fact, such a system allows for easier portfolio management as it is possible to view all managed sites at once. Because managers are able to access information remotely, this also reduces on-site maintenance to only when absolutely necessary, saving time and cost in manual maintenance. 

2. Cost reduction in development

Cost reduction proves to be one of the greatest benefits of cloud-based energy management systems as it allows companies to curb costs for the development of local infrastructure. Because these systems are generally sold as a service, the customer does not need to take care of maintenance and updating of the database and infrastructure which again reduces wasted time and money that could be spent on implementing energy and money saving practices based on the data received. Clients also only need to pay for what they use thereby reducing excessive overhead cost. 

3. Lowers cost in manpower resource allocation

Not only do cloud services minimize the costs of software development and maintenance but also lowers costs associated with time spent, resources to maintain in-house IT professionals and infrastructure on gathering, storing and analyzing energy data. This proves most beneficial for sectors that do not or cannot prioritize in-house energy management software experts. 

4. Elasticity

Cloud-based systems allow for greater deployment flexibility, meaning that it is easy to either upgrade or downgrade resources which proves a great advantage for energy management systems compared to owned infrastructure. This allows the consumer to reduce or increase site data acquisition and maintenance much easier as demand dictates. For energy management specialists and consultants, this proves especially beneficial as clients change, more sites are easily implemented into the system for better-facilitated management. 

5. Access to data anywhere, anytime and on any device

A major selling factor for cloud-based services, especially for energy management is that users can access their data, dashboard and any analytics from any device around the world. For example, when looking at energy analytics for a building, an energy manager or consultant does not need to be in the building, or even in the office to get live updates on energy use or waste. With access to information from portable devices, this flexibility allows for a competitive edge for users.

6. Boost user experience

Allowing customers to engage independently with the ever-innovating cloud-based software boosts the user experience. Customers being able to alter the use of the software to their needs without having to develop the platform differently on their own is crucial to support a changing market. The ability to interact easily with energy data on a constantly updated system is crucial to a better understanding and use of that data. 

7. Disaster recovery

Every business possesses sensitive information that is crucial to business operations and must be protected. Cloud-based services are the simplest way to keep information backed up and safe. Specifically, it is cited that small businesses are twice as likely as larger companies to implement cloud-based backup and recovery solutions.This solution saves time and large up-front investments. With cloud-based energy management software, energy data and savings analysis are securely maintained and updated without much work from the customer. 

8. Ease of collaboration

By promoting accessibility, cloud-based services allow for analysis and access to data around the world. This is especially beneficial to energy consultants or energy managers working for large corporations. Because the information is connected to one online system, it is possible to support either many clients at once or support many branches of one client from around the world. Consultants and managers can easily present this information from this one source across many platforms to optimize client service. 

9. Enhances competitive edge

Taking the first step towards cloud-based energy management software, and cloud-based services, in general, allow for a competitive edge in the market as a differentiating feature that can benefit the company. Cloud-based software can allow even small and medium-size businesses to act faster than larger, more established companies. For consultancy firms and utility companies especially, by using cloud-based services, they are able to offer clients quick response analytics and advice creating better client relationships.

10. Streamlines data analysis activities

Lastly, but perhaps most important, is the ability of cloud-based energy management systems on the market today to simplify and automate many of the time-intensive tasks associated with the analysis and reporting of energy data. Furthermore, advanced tools and features allow energy management professionals to dig deeper into their energy data, to determine the impact of external variables on kWh consumption for example, calculate ROI of energy efficiency projects and retrofits, examine the relationship between different data sets, identify opportunities for energy and cost savings, generate hourly, daily, weekly, annual reports at a click of a button, and so much more. Spending hours doing mathematical analysis in excel is no longer a viable option for energy professionals who seek an intelligent, simple, accurate and agile solution for which to analyse energy data to make informed business decisions. 

Amy Ryan's picture

Thank Amy for the Post!

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on January 14, 2019

Very informative, and another example of how wise use & management of energy can be a cost-effective solution to growing energy demand-- rather than the expensive and locked-in solution of building out new generation sources. 

Amy Ryan's picture
Amy Ryan on January 15, 2019

Thanks Matt! glad to be part the Energy Central community. Indeed, technology is really changing traditional energy management practices and the energy landscape as a whole, however, I think there's more to be done in terms of making actors in the space aware of the options available to them.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on January 15, 2019

That's a good point about awareness-- tech alone won't solve the problem, but they need to be implemented. Any insight on how to achieve that awareness?

Amy Ryan's picture
Amy Ryan on January 25, 2019

Agreed Matt, tech alone won't solve the problem, it is really about what you do with the information received from devices deployed in the field to collect energy data. When it comes to awareness, I think that the onus lies on the energy managers as well as other professionals that are tasked with making business/operations as resource efficient as possible, to seek out the solutions that are going to help them achieve this goal, while also automating some of the activities associated with energy analysis and reporting. Of course, solution providers in this space also need to create this awareness and educate through online platforms like Energy Central, as well as other mediums such as industry events and conferences, where information-sharing takes place. These platforms (online and face-to-face networking) are key to learning how the energy market is evolving as well as what trends and influences have the potential to transform the way that energy professionals go about their work on a day-to-day basis.

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