Intelligent metering — a business asset
Roger Woodward explains why metering in commercial buildings should be regarded as a business benefit rather than simply a legal obligation.
Part L of the Building Regulations requires that metering systems are installed in buildings. At least 90% of the estimated annual energy consumption of each fuel must be measured and assigned to the different end-use categories. No one who owns or operates a building wants to fall foul of the Building Regulations, yet metering should be regarded not just an as obligation but as an opportunity for cost savings.
It's probably safe to say that in many UK commercial buildings today, meters are installed and then given little further thought. However, with the latest easy-to-install technologies, those meters could provide invaluable business data. Reaching slightly further than the legal requirement can give money-saving insights into how efficiently a building is operating and help to improve its long-term energy efficiency.
The best approach to understand metering data is to ensure that meters and sub-meters are connected to a wider building energy management system (BEMS). In the past, this was something of a challenge as different manufacturers used different protocols for their BEMS and meters. Now, however, adding meters to the BEMS system has been made easier with the introduction of metering gateway software. This metering gateway enables controls systems installers to ensure that the metering data is collected and collated automatically.
|Metering gateway software overcomes the problem of different protocols to enable metering data to collected and collated automatically using a BEMS.|
Energy is a high-cost item, and not measuring its use seems strange when we consider how carefully other business costs are analysed. One of the challenges for building and facilities managers is that they cannot access information easily. Ensuring that meters are 'intelligent' (i.e. that they can be linked to a BEMS) means that building managers can track data use.
At its most basic, intelligent metering provides details on half-hourly energy use. This information can show how demand varies throughout the day, revealing peaks and troughs in usage. Sub-metering can also indicate which elements of the building use the most energy — lighting, chillers etc. With simple analysis of one or two items, a building manager quickly builds up a view of patterns of energy use in the building. Already, they are in a better position to reduce costs through better energy tariff selection, for example.
Of course, many buildings do have energy-management systems, which are already doing this work of tracking energy use. In a large office building, for example, automated metering is a necessity because there are too many information points to allow for manual data collection. But assuming that the BEMS will ensure energy efficient operations forever is a mistake. It is a system that requires interaction.
Even the best set-up and commissioned building will move from its initial performance over time. This is where information from meters becomes invaluable; it shows how the building actually performs and indicates when energy efficiency falls. Anyone with an eye to long-term cost savings in their business will view data from meters as a valuable business asset; and if you're not, it's almost certain your competitors will be.
Roger Woodward is managing director of Tridium for the UK and EMEA.
The value of meters
Once you’ve gathered the information from your meters, there are a number of ways it can be used to reduce business costs and identify further areas for energy savings, including the following.
• Monitor and control energy to ensure reductions during times of peak demand and premium energy costs.
• Reduce unit energy costs by reducing peak limits. Information from meters enables better negotiation with utility companies
• Gain better understanding of historical usage and costs
• Identify instances of inefficient plant and equipment scheduling. Metering data will show where and when this is happening.
• Identify poor control applications such as inefficient chiller sequencing.
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