How managers can move their organization from reactive emergencies to planned activities
Angela Testa, senior vice president of operations at American Campus Communities, strengthens operations without compromising a healthy work environment
The important concept to take away is that utilities are moving to engage customers. The first steps for managers in reducing energy costs are to verify and monitor use through meters, then implement a program to report the data. These meters must be able to report to a building-wide system, as well as control key energy-using systems.
A system that can communicate with the local utility can meet a facility's short-term needs. For example, San Diego Gas & Electric is working to provide customers with Google PowerMeter so customers can read a dashboard that shows their power use in real time. These types of services soon will be available to more end users.
The system can be bi-directional, where the user and the utility control certain systems. As a result, a manager buying a new control system should coordinate with the local utility to make sure the system can communicate with the utility.
Security also is important because some organizations do not want information on power use at particular times to be made public. Managers also do not want to relinquish control of vital facility systems. To understand such arrangements, managers need to verify the utility's security programs align with the facility's security protocol.
In most large systems, control remains with the facility, and communication takes place by phone. The manager can choose to participate or not during peak-load times.
Because most demand-response programs in effect are event driven, managers tend to assume demand-response events occur for limited periods called by the grid operator. But critical peak pricing and real-time pricing are growing in prevalence and impact. Many demand-response programs are designed primarily to curtail or shift load for short periods. But those programs that educate customers about energy use with time-of-use rates, dynamic rates, and energy-use feedback also can produce measurable reductions in customers' total energy use and costs.
Finally, some managers might be concerned demand-response programs primarily benefit the utility, not the customer. As a result, managers should study the different rate structures to see those that best meet a facility's need. Some facilities, such as large universities or medical centers, can influence the details of a particular utility's arrangement.
Conversely, smaller facilities might have to coordinate their concerns with other similar utilities to make sure that the arrangements benefit the facility and utility, while keeping in mind the main goal of all parties— reducing power use.
Winston Huff is a project manager, system designer, and sustainability coordinator with Smith Seckman Reid — a consulting engineering firm in Nashville, Tenn.
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Power Meters: Report to Building-Control System