Energy metering for facilities managers

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Energy metering should be more than simply complying with the latest Building Regulations. MIKE CAHILL explains its importance as part of a strategy for automatic monitoring and targeting that can help reduce energy consumption.Ask any facilities manager or commercial property owner to name a hot topic for 2006, and energy metering is sure to be at the top of the list. After years of consultation and research into how to make buildings more energy efficient, The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive finally came into force on 6 April 2006. In September 2005, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) stated that the proposed changes to the regulations on energy conservation ‘will save a million tonnes of carbon per year by 2010 and help to combat climate change. The new measures taken together with the 2002 Building Regulations will improve standards by 40%’. Energy metering is set to play a key part in this strategy. While some businesses already have monitoring systems in place, many are less prepared. It is inevitable that the new regulations will entail some extra administration and costs, but the paybacks to a business should also be significant and on-going. For instance, Sainsbury’s has succeeded in cutting its energy bill by more than £4 million per year using energy monitoring, optimisation and exception management. This figure represents a 15% reduction in refrigeration energy usage, or 5% of total usage across 456 of its stores. Setting aside the clear benefits to the environment, no business, of whatever size, can afford to ignore a saving of this magnitude. There are other financial advantages in embracing energy metering with open arms rather than merely paying lip service to it. By implementing a truly effective strategy for automatic monitoring and targeting (aM&T), property owners and managers could actually reduce the whole-life cost of buildings and also increase their capital value. How, specifically, can energy metering help achieve these goals? More important, what is the optimum type of system? Legislation overview The new legislation applies to all new and existing dwellings and non-dwellings. Each category has to comply with specific benchmarks and provide an energy-performance certificate showing compliance. All new buildings over 1000 m2 must incorporate automatic meter reading, based on the current meter requirements, to provide detailed information on energy performance. This encompasses the total consumption of gas, electricity, oil and liquid petroleum gas. These figures will be measured against published benchmarks based on a notional building of comparable size, occupancy, lighting and temperature. The regulations also state that new air-conditioned buildings will have a target of improving energy/carbon performance by 28%. The installation of aM&T can provide a 5% allowance, with further allowances for maintaining a high power factor. The incentives are there — an aM&T system is the most efficient way to capture accurate data, while satisfying the legal requirements. The changes are a positive move towards the conservation of fuel and power and are essential for maximum energy efficiency. Not only does aM&T improve the accuracy of the data generated, but exception reporting provides all relevant parties with instant alerts of fluctuations in consumption, pinpointing the location so that problems can readily be dealt with. Data can also be used to reveal variations on a 24/7 basis — leading to quantifiable energy savings. Among the various methods of gathering data from remote sites, the IP addressable system is emerging as the most popular. This approach allows quick and easy analysis of information by using the Internet as an existing network. It is easily extended to a site and is capable of transferring large amount of data at minimal cost. Choosing a system Before investing in an energy-monitoring system, it is important to evaluate the building’s needs to determine what kind of system is needed. It is not enough to select a system that enables you to meet the legislation, without considering other features that could bring added benefits. Instead, look for a scalable model that is suitable for your site and offers a cost-effective solution. A good supplier should discuss all options and make recommendations for your specific circumstances. Maximising results is also about involving all relevant parties from the outset. It is important to clearly define the energy-monitoring strategy, including how the meters operate and how to properly analyse the data. The targeting of information, such as exception reports, to the correct people needs careful planning. Identifying and resolving a problem before it gets out of control ensures savings and increases the long-term return on investment. As the regulations state that 90% of the estimated annual energy consumption of each fuel must be accounted for, it is also advisable to have sufficient sub-metering. This approach will provide detailed information on every area where savings could be made. There are likely to be several factors affecting energy usage throughout the day — in addition to seasonal variations, site occupancy and process throughput. That is why data, whether it is collected on gas, electricity, oil, water or liquid petroleum gas, should be measured — ideally, at half-hour intervals to reflect a ‘holistic’ usage figure and create an accurate picture of site activity. The right meters or current transformers, installed correctly, will provide precise information for monitoring and targeting processes for effective energy management. By quantifying savings, you will allow specific projects to be analysed for cost justification. Long-term benefits As for the benefits, for those companies who have already embraced energy metering, the rewards are wide-ranging and substantial. The manufacturer, Kaysersberg Plastics, is a prime example of a large company which is achieving its energy-reduction targets and has generated significant cost savings by using an energy-monitoring system. Kaysersberg Plastics installed its system following a detailed survey of the production area and plant, highlighting just how crucial it is to have accurate figures to monitor energy effectively. There is no doubt that the information gained from energy monitoring can help operators run more energy-efficient premises. Importantly, it can also push forward business decisions that will benefit a company’s profit margin and the payback period of the system. The long-term goal is ongoing savings. With the right solution, an initial outlay could be recovered several times over. By embracing the regulations, a business will certainly save energy today. Perhaps more importantly, systems can be implemented that ensure better run buildings into the future. Mike Cahill is with Parasense Ltd, Unit 12, Olympus Park, Quedgeley, Gloucester, GL2 4NF. Parasense automatic-targeting-and-monitoring (AT&m) equipment is listed on the Carbon Trust’s approved Energy Technology List and qualifies for the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme — a tax relief that enables businesses to claim 100% first-year capital allowances on investments in energy saving equipment. Details of qualifying products and ECAs are available at the Carbon Trust web site below.
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