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Energy Audits Also Call For Measurement And Verification
After project completion, it is important to track monthly utility bills against the estimated savings in electrical consumption (kWh), electrical demand (kW), natural gas consumption (therms, Dths, CCF or MCF), water consumption, etc. The simple method is to ignore everything but the billing data and note if year-over-year monthly consumption data changes. Facility executives can also develop an even more sophisticated measurement and verification report by considering other factors like heating or cooling degree days and other changes in the building, such as operating hours, or equipment added or removed. To do that, a small energy model will be needed because a change in cooling degree days for a given month does not affect the entire electricity bill. A certified energy manager can document the normal historical impact of changes in heating and cooling degree days on a building. While heating and cooling degree days affect the HVAC load and cost, they have no impact on the electricity associated with lighting, pumps and plug load.
Not interested in tracking the results? Then it does not matter how much is invested or how it is invested, because no one will be keeping score. If facility executives do plan to keep score, then all the numbers matter and reputations are on the line. Consistent performance produces confidence, builds reputations and opens the door for future investments.
The measurement and verification results should be shared with the building management team and top management. At this point, facility executives will see the value of conservative energy engineering assumptions and conservative values for energy units saved. No one likes to report that the energy project is producing less than expected. It is better to sell an energy project with a slightly longer projected payback period and later be in a position to report that the project is saving 125 percent of the expected total. Energy consultants and vendors looking after the owner’s interest and having long-term relationships understand the need to use conservative assumptions.
There can be a public relations benefit to improving building energy efficiency. The ENERGY STAR program will provide a plaque if the building is in the top 25 percent of like buildings in terms of BTUs per square foot. Energy efficiency is a good example of environmental responsibility, which can resonate with employees and potential tenants. An energy efficiency project also helps the local utility companies better manage peak load and capital investments. If energy management is successfully implemented and widespread, it can actually reduce the cost of energy.
Richard G. Lubinski is an independent energy consultant with more than 25 years of experience in 34 states and other countries. He speaks on a variety of energy management topics at national conferences. His firm has energy consulting contracts with the federal and state governments in addition to commercial and institutional clients.