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Metering, Monitoring, Managing Energy Costs
Energy metering and monitoring programs can make a significant difference in a company’s bottom line. Energy costs are a major component in most business budgets, yet many facility executives are not aware of the intricacies of energy expenditures within their facilities.
“The first step in improving energy management is measuring how, where and when you use all that energy,” says Jean Lupinacci, director of the Commercial and Industrial Branch of Energy Star® at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
While metering alone does not save energy, the information from the meters, when acted on, can result in significant reductions — typically 5 to 15 percent, Lupinacci says.
“A company, at the least, needs to track and compile how much energy each property uses,” Lupinacci says. “At multibuilding sites, we recommend metering at a building level rather than using one meter for the whole property.” Once metering information is available, the facility executive can compare costs per square foot against similarly designed and used buildings. That information can provide a general sense of whether energy costs at a particular building are higher than average. If so, that building may well be a good place to look for energy-saving opportunities.
Some companies have an in-house staff with the skills to handle measuring and monitoring and to produce a full array of useful reports. Alternatively, there are consulting or partnering services that, for a fee, offer a range of energy information services, including monitoring a diversity of building data and, in some cases, generating facility management and executive level reports from that data.
At Walt Disney World, energy measuring and monitoring is handled in-house. The company’s current energy-saving program began in August 1996. The Walt Disney World Company became a partner in EPA’s Energy Star Buildings program and used that program as a framework and methodology for energy savings. Since then, Disney has implemented numerous projects that have resulted in significant energy and cost savings, says Paul Allen, chief engineer, energy management, Reedy Creek Energy Services, Walt Disney World.
Where to Start
The starting point was lighting upgrades. By December 1998, more than 17 million square feet of facilities were upgraded under the Green Lights phase of the Energy Star Buildings program. The annual electrical savings amounted to 46 million kilowatt-hours — the equivalent electrical usage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park during its first year of operation, says Allen.
Next, for the building tuneup (BTU) phase of its energy efforts, Disney created a systematic process to evaluate building systems and to measure their utility usage. An intranet-based utility reporting system was developed in 1997 to publish utility metering data and track results of the company’s energy-saving efforts. The reporting system gave authorized employees access to specific types of data. Timely and informative reports on utility usage at each facility helped minimize costs. “BTU Teams,” formed from engineering and operations staff, reviewed building and energy management systems. This systematic approach typically resulted in 5- to 15-percent reductions in utility usage in the facilities reviewed to date, says Allen.
Savings Add Up
In October 1998, Disney began implementing numerous cost-effective energy saving projects, including compressed air system optimization; hot water boiler controls; variable speed drives; demand ventilation control; energy management system upgrades; and utility submetering systems.
All the Energy Star Buildings Program efforts at Disney have resulted in a 44-percent internal rate of return (IRR) and annual reductions of approximately 94 million kwh of electricity and 578,000 therms of natural gas.
Today, Disney uses its own customized Web-based system to monitor energy usage. “We monitor the monthly billing totals for electric, chilled water, hot water, natural gas, water, sewer, refuse and reclaimed water,” says Allen. “We also collect hourly data from various types of meters on all electric use and some chilled water, hot water, water and natural gas usage.” Almost all the data is entered into the system automatically, with minimal manual entry required when updating monthly billing data, he says.
The collected energy data is stored on a central computer. Everyone responsible for energy usage gets a monthly e-mail report showing a current-month vs. year-ago month comparison, Allen says. A smaller number get a daily e-mail report showing utility usage by each day.
“Continuous feedback on utility performance is central to an energy information system,” says Allen. At Disney, the energy information system consists of data-collecting equipment and computer programs that provide raw data on energy use throughout the enterprise and enable personnel to target areas ripe for energy conservation.
Hines, a Houston-based international real estate company with 650 properties in 76 U.S. cities and 13 foreign countries, totalling 87 million gross square feet, has also seen the benefits of energy metering. The company has 54 Energy Star-labeled buildings.
“We monitor the energy performance of equipment in the HVAC system, including chillers, fans, pumps, and the cooling tower, and compare performance to their design intent,” says Andrew Kitchens, senior manager of engineering. In the electrical system, the company profiles the load characteristics for the building by placing meters on distribution panels, and in a number of buildings, on bus-risers. In some situations, Hines is monitoring floor-by-floor loads.
“We maintain a utility variance report that identifies our Btus per square foot,” says Kitchens. “With historical data entered, the report compares each month’s energy use to a five-year average for that month. We can see trends or anomalies in energy use, and if the variance is greater than 5 percent, we require our engineering managers to provide an explanation.”
When Hines acquires a property, the energy-use variance usually becomes favorable over time, the result of a combination of tuning up the building and other energy efficiency measures, Kitchens says.
“Generally, after an initial assessment of an acquisition, we tune up the building by applying whatever measures are needed, as appropriate, to return it to design intent. That alone can sometimes net 5 percent to 10 percent energy savings,” Kitchens says. “Some typical conditions we find include air side economizers that are not functioning properly, the need for air/water balancing, equipment utilization issues (sequencing, cycling, scheduling), and the general lack of automated energy management employment, including optimal system start-up and shut-down features.
“We also look for other immediate savings achievable from slam-dunk efficiency measures, such as lighting retrofits, high-efficiency motors and minor control upgrades,” Kitchens says.
Information Is Key
The measuring and monitoring information from the utility variance report goes to Central Engineering at Hines. The company generates central monthly reports on consumption and costs for all utilities. Each property, on an annual basis, also gets printouts for all the other properties, for comparison.
The information, all of which Kitchens considers valuable, is reviewed during an annual assessment visitation process of each property that covers several areas of engineering operation, including energy management. “We question or congratulate the engineering manager on energy management, as warranted,” he says.
“Another important aspect of the annual meeting is ensuring that building management is up to date on the latest technologies, whether analyzed in house or by partnering with an ESCO, a consultant, a utility representative, a contractor or a vendor,” Kitchens says. The engineering manager’s ability to identify, sell, implement and monitor energy efficiency measures is a critical skill-set for Hines. “We encourage and expect building engineers to take broad responsibility for the management of energy for their building.”
Hines developed the utility variance report as a pilot program in the Western region, made necessary changes, and brought the program corporatewide.
Facility executives who are considering a similar program should allow enough time for facility personnel to understand, embrace and implement software programs — such as Excel. “There was a longer learning curve than we anticipated,” Kitchens says. He also advises facility executives to keep it simple. “Carefully identify only the energy data that you know you’re going to use, and from which you can effect change.”
At Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. — Toyota’s sales and marketing organization for much of North America — a pilot program consisting of a metering and monitoring system and a building management system, both of which are modified off-the-shelf solutions, has been in place at seven locations around the country for almost a year. The sites include the 17-building headquarters campus, parts distribution centers, regional sales offices and vehicle delivery centers. All the information is transmitted to Toyota’s partnering service provider in Chicago.
“The service provider takes the raw data and develops reports and analyses that are available, companywide, over the Web within 5 to 10 minutes after the remote metering,” says Jim Cooke, national facilities operations manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA. The monitoring is conducted on a building-by-building basis, with one reading device for both direct electrical and HVAC power usage at each building.
The data already has been useful. For example, there were spikes in electric use at certain times of the day at the warehouses because fork lifts were all being recharged at the same time. Varying the recharging schedule has reduced the peak loads.
“We have an open goal to substantially reduce our energy expenditure over the next several years,” Cooke says. “Since we started the program, from better management alone — without changing any energy-using equipment — we have been able to reduce our energy usage by about 6 percent.”
Toyota is taking one step at a time. Before deciding on any equipment retrofits, the company wants to understand and optimize benefits of better management to see if equipment replacement is warranted.
“In the next six to 12 months, we will start pilot programs on changing lighting and other systems to test theories and make sure the results are in our favor,” says Cooke. “We will make adjustments, if needed, before we expand the program to all our sites.”
Cooke advises working with third-party partners who are cooperative and willing to customize their solution to meet company needs. Plus, for best results from the effort, he recommends “employing people who are totally focused on — and dedicate 100 percent of their time to — the energy management program.”
William and Patti Feldman are freelance writers.