When it comes to energy efficiency, having the right information at your fingertips can have a positive impact on your bottom line. There’s plenty of useful data available, but how do you get it – and more importantly, what can you do with it?
“The first thing I look at is past bills,” says Sajeev Shivshankaran, an energy and facilities engineer with the City of Greater Sudbury.* "Looking at your past 12 months of bills can give you a picture of what your consumption has been like. To go even deeper, look into the past 24 to 36 months."
"The baseline understanding you can get from your bills will help you prioritize where to make potential investments in technical retrofit projects," he says.
But there's other paperwork that can help you target savings.
“Review your maintenance costs and bills from service contractors,” adds Bryan Flannigan, an engineer and consultant who specializes in helping organizations become more energy efficient. “Reviewing past invoices
for emergency repairs or rising service costs can help direct where equipment could be replaced with more energy efficient units, saving both energy and repair costs.”
“Look at your bill to see what's driving your consumption, but also when,” adds Rob Doyle, senior manager, alliances at the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). The numbers and dates on your bill can tell you the “when,” but your facilities team and day-to-day staff can help with the “what,” he says.
Talk to them to get more insight into how energy-use behaviour may be having an impact. For example, if you get regular weekly maintenance that requires electricity during a time when rates are higher, consider switching your routine, Doyle says.
Just as you know your own health or your own home better than anyone else, the same is true about your facility. He recommends using your powers of observation to uncover where potential energy waste is happening, or see what challenges, such as employee comfort, you could address through energy efficiency. Vigilance and common sense can go a long way.
“Spend time at your building after hours and on weekends,” Flannigan suggests. “Are lights left on, are there noises that indicate things are still running that should not be?”
"The local distribution company that services your business can help you tap into a wealth of information, beyond your regular bills," says energy expert Stephen Dixon. Many distribution companies offer free access to real-time usage data, so you can track when you're using the most electricity.
A monitoring and targeting option is one solution for getting more data for better ongoing energy management. This system collects data through electricity sub-meters installed on various equipment that is using electricity.
That way, you'll get real-time feedback to help you see where you can reduce energy waste, and uncover unusual patterns in your consumption. A system like this can also help you set your energy consumption benchmark, so you can set performance targets overall.
Analyzing your bills and talking to on-the-ground employees can help you make informed assumptions about where you have room for improvement. As a next step, an energy audit by a qualified energy professional can give you a comprehensive picture of how your business is using its electricity, and where there are opportunities for savings through eliminating waste or implementing newer, more efficient equipment.
Fiat Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant is just one facility harnessing the power of ongoing energy data. The facility runs 24 hours a day, so it had plenty of opportunities for energy efficiency.
"Many of the plant's tools require compressed air, so we undertook a project to make its compressors operate more efficiently, including by running only certain ones based on efficiency and demand during certain times of day," says Harpreet Dhillon, the plant's embedded energy manager.
But it also implemented a process to collect real-time data. At the plant, a dashboard provides a full picture of how energy is being consumed across the plant, so Dhillon and his team can make informed decisions about how best to run compressors, chillers and other equipment.
In total, the plant is now saving 2 MWh per day in electricity, with various projects including compressor optimization, which translates to a six-figure annual dollar savings.
Remember to engage your senior leadership throughout your data-gathering process. Energy managers play a crucial role in interpreting the data and taking it to the C-Suite, so energy efficiency projects can have long-term support for the years to come.