Delivering year-on-year energy savings requires strategic planning backed by sound management information and today's building services engineers should be at the heart of it. Tony Willis of Sabien Technology explains.
As the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme continues to gather pace, organisations are now thinking ahead to how they will achieve the year-on-year savings to maintain or improve their position in the league tables and mitigate the associated costs. In many cases, they will be looking for 'quick wins' with relatively low investment in the first year or two while planning ahead for longer-term savings.
BS engineers have an important role to play in helping end-users develop an effective strategy, implement an action plan and be responsible for meeting the strategy's goals.
There are sound business reasons for organisations to address their energy performance particularly to reduce costs in the current economic climate. A recent survey by Verdantix showed that around two-thirds of UK executives view the CRC scheme as an opportunity to deliver energy cost savings. Even those organisations not participating in the scheme can benefit from operational cost efficiencies by taking control of their energy usage. However, executing and validating energy saving projects requires planning involving multiple stakeholders, all of whom might influence the outcome. BS engineers will be tasked with sourcing technology, collecting data to be used in investment cases and overseeing the installation of the chosen technology, while managing many of the stakeholders' expectations.
The complexities of such a strategy are clearly exemplified by projects to reduce energy consumed for heating and hot water - 54% of the energy used in the service sector is for this purpose.
Firstly, it's important to understand the current situation. As energy monitoring and targeting specialist Vilnis Vesma explains: 'If you are trying to prove the savings you have achieved through an energy project, the question you have to answer is this: how much am I now using, compared with what I would have used in the absence of the project?'
In the case of many organisations, the role of BS engineers in gathering and reporting meaningful, timely and accurate management information - including the estate's asset logs and energy consumption related to the plant - will increase significantly. Attempting to implement an energy saving technology with inaccurate or missing data will create indecision, delay the benefits and jeopardise the strategy.
The next stage is to identify potential solutions, and how they relate to the end users' requirements and obtain a forecast of the level of expected savings, bearing any variables in mind. In this respect, it's useful to look at projects using tried and tested solutions to see if a verifiable business outcome was delivered.
Crucially, it's just as important to ensure that the technology providers being considered have both the technical and project management expertise to deliver large roll-out projects while minimising the impact on the end client's resources. Many such projects stall because they rely on end users' resources that are subject to other core business pressures.
Additionally, the results of the project have to be assessed accurately - and measuring energy savings can be complex. When analysing data to confirm energy savings ensure a sound methodology is used. In the case of heating, this needs to take into account both day-to-day variation in ambient temperatures and any variation in demand.
Automatic meter reading (AMR) will measure the total volume of energy consumed by the building or site but not the energy used by individual plant items.
Installing sub-metering is one solution to verifying energy consumption at plant level, but can be expensive. For a more cost-effective approach, we have developed a toggling technique for our specific technology, M2G, that switches between running the M2G intelligent boiler load optimiser one day and then bypassing it the next, usually over a period of one month. The result is a comparison of 'with and without' an energy saving device - thus taking account of the demand variations.
In the case of heating, it's also important to adjust the figures to account for day-to-day temperature variation using degree day analysis. In addition, the changes in energy consumption over longer periods of time (pre, during and post project) can be established by cumulative sum analysis, a Carbon Trust-approved tool that examines trends for sequential events, such as energy consumption, over time.