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Achieving Energy Intelligence using Business Intelligence tools

Currently, many businesses struggle with how to deal with this energy  cost situation. They recognize at a high level that there is a problem  to be solved, but they aren’t sure what specific actions should be taken  to address it. Should they institute new office policies, install new  lighting equipment, install new heating, ventilation and air  conditioning equipment or install new insulation? The number of actions  companies can take is broad, and some actions are much more expensive to  implement than others.

As with any worthy business problem that is large and complex, it’s  important to gather information before taking costly actions so that you  can focus your actions on the most fruitful areas. But where do you get  the information?

You could start by looking at your company’s utility bills. These can  help you see the general trend in usage and cost, but there are several  problems with this approach. For example, utility bills are a lagging  indicator, meaning they only tell you what happened after the fact and  don’t allow you to take immediate real-time action. Plus, they usually  give you information at the building or campus level – so you can’t tell  what is really driving the energy usage. Also, if your company is of  reasonably large size, you probably have facilities in multiple  locations (cities, states, countries) that are each served by different  utilities with different rates and price structures.

You could also look at your building systems themselves. Much of the  equipment that uses energy, such as lighting, space heating, cooling,  ventilation and water heating has management systems that facility  managers use to monitor and manipulate what is happening with that  equipment. These building management systems are beneficial in that they  allow information about what is happening to be monitored in real time,  and they can allow you to do this at a granular, subfacility level.  However, these systems are islands of information that don’t relate to  each other. Also, they typically use proprietary communications  protocols and essentially become a third network – in addition to the IP  and phone networks – within your company.

The other challenge with just looking at these sources of energy  consumption information is that they don’t help you understand what you  did with that energy. For example, if energy usage is rising at a  particular location, is that a good thing or a bad thing? It really  depends on what you did with it.

  • Were there more employees working more hours during      that  period?
  • Did you produce more products then?
  • Did you service more customers?
  • Looking at what you did with the energy gets to the      heart of  the business problem itself, which is to increase operational       efficiencies related to energy; in other words, to do more with       less.

Energy Intelligence

This is where “energy intelligence,” literally a business  intelligence approach applied to energy use within a company’s  facilities, comes into play. An energy intelligence system can integrate  data from islands of energy usage information (building management  systems, building sensors, utilities, etc.) and combine it with other  operational data from your enterprise applications (supply chain,  manufacturing, HR, finance, customer relationship management, asset  management, etc.) to provide visibility to trends in usage, costs and  efficiencies – across all locations, sub-locations, and building  systems. By bringing this information together in one place and  providing Business Intelligence capabilities – trending graphs,  dashboards, near real-time monitors, exception alerts,  location-comparison reports and detailed analysis capabilities – an  Energy Intelligence system can help company leaders understand where  efficiencies are and help them make informed decisions about what  actions will provide the most return.

An energy intelligence system can provide the visibility your company  needs to identify ways you can make significant energy-related cost  reductions. By looking at this information over time, an energy  intelligence system can also help show which improvements are actually  providing the intended benefits, allowing you to repeat the actions that  work at more locations and to stop taking the actions that don’t. An  Energy Intelligence system can also apply business logic to calculate  the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are a result of this energy  usage. As regulations regarding GHG emissions begin to take effect in  the United States – many of which are already in effect in other  counties –this information will be critical for compliance.

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