New Sydney Opera House energy upgrade and energy management system

By David Burns

20 July 2010 – A commercial building or manufacturing facility energy management system is a crucial software tool required to digest when, where and why resources are consumed, and is the first action in making facilities sustainable.

Very few facility managers possess real-time information to effectively manage their electricity, gas, and water liabilities across asset portfolios. As consumers, we are seeing energy and water prices increase, resulting in significant expense. The ability to respond immediately to consumption trends and anomalies is almost impossible without real-time monitoring systems for any modern enterprise.

An EMS can facilitate the reduction of energy and water costs by identifying peak loads, and devise swift responses to unsighted waste and system variability. It can maintain surveillance over workplace amenity, resulting in better employee satisfaction and facility control. It can also improve understanding of consumption patterns, greenhouse gas emission targets and business performance.

Critics tend to identify the initial capital expenditure, or CAPEX and ongoing data access fees through local or international data centres, as the main business hurdles.

An unlikely analogy is to offer solutions to lessen critic concerns and that should result in more affordable EMS integration, including options to self manage data.

The recent phenomenon and popularity of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are providing product direction incorporating open architecture, and offering users flexibility that is generating such consumer interest.

EMS can apply to new buildings, existing buildings, manufacturing facilities, teaching campuses, and other sectors such as transport, agriculture, and government.

Energy and water savings of up to 30-40 per cent are achievable once resource consumption is understood, including benchmarking of consumption profiles across business units, relative to floorspace, shifts, season, or production intensities.

An EMS continues to provide ongoing validation and assurance of facility performance long after any initial Green Star certification, and can encourage healthy competition between business units to engage employees and stakeholders, accelerating energy efficiency opportunities.

Drivers are compliance obligations, facility management, operational expenditure,or OPEX management, process improvement, environmental values, and brand enhancement.

Selection of an EMS is straightforward and should be aligned with business values and policies, and scoped to specific objectives. For example, a basic energy reporting system that relies on trailing data may be adequate for a business concerned with compliance obligations such as the National Greenhouse Energy Reporting System.

A real-time EMS networked with digital metering and monitoring devices strategically installed throughout facility service reticulation systems provides effective management and reduction of business expenses via EEO, including basic ERS.

An EMS is also capable of supplying source data into an existing building management system. The EMS design, software user-interface, and cost are the key differentiators.

Whereas, components, sensors, and meters should be sourced from best in class suppliers and comply to internationally recognised quality and performance standards, and preferentially exhibit low “watt-loss” characteristics.

Software should cater easily for scaling and add-ons, including multiple distributed energy generation sources such as photo-voltaic solar and wind energy, combined with the ability to collect source data from accounting packages such as waste data and fuel consumption. Visionary organisations may consider bundling several business metrics together such as LEAN Six Sigma, safety and service statistics, and production volumes, hosted by a single highly visible platform for the benefit of stakeholders, occupants and visitors.

For more information see The Green Building Council of Australia

My Four Top Tips.
Consider the drivers behind the requirement for an EMS and the outputs you require.
Insist on a secure open-sourced EMS offering flexibility (design & data acquisition), including DIY monitoring/ data management options.
Consider an EMS that allows for identification of real-time trends, exception reporting and alarms.
Choose an EMS that provides carbon management and reporting tools.

In conclusion, EMS availability can be through an energy integrator such as commercial energy services, or be incorporated in a building management system (BMS) from an automation company such as Honeywell. Whether a simple ERS, comprehensive EMS, or universal BMS is for you, access to consumption data is a essential for planning, and managing modern business.

David Burns is a National Solutions Council member of the Rocky Mountain Institute and a trained analytical chemist having a healthy interest in energy efficiency in buildings, transport, and industry. David lives in an award winning sustainable home featuring an integrated EMS located in Manly which opens to the public each year during Sustainable House Day, Sunday 12 Sept 2010.

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