Determining facility's energy metering needs

  April 25, 2012

I'm Steve Schuster, associate editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic discusses measuring energy usage.

Power metering has become essential in institutional and commercial facilities, and virtually every electric consumer has some form of metering. At the very least, electric utility companies provide basic standard meters for individual metered accounts.

More often than not, a utility meter features solid-state technology, though some are older electromechanical meters that simply aggregate kilowatt hours use. Depending on the local utility's rate structure for large commercial accounts, the meter might measure kilowatt hours based on time of use, demand kilowatt, and power factor. With every metered account, the utility typically conveys this information to the user on a monthly billing cycle. With the sophisticated reporting meters available, managers can pursue an active demand-response program. They now are able to monitor and determine when peak-demand periods are imminent.

Many electric utilities offer special programs and rate structures that can deliver significant cost benefits with a successful load-shedding agreement. For facilities in which power quality is critical, meters also can identify problem areas and engage integrated, real-time, power-factor-correction systems. For managers who want to take advantage of contract real-time pricing, a suitable time-of-use meter is critical.

The specification should address meter accuracies and show that it meets code requirements. Defining the means of communicating data and access to setting adjustments should be part of the specification with multiple open protocols. Power metering has become so advanced that facility managers no longer have to rely on a single standard utility meter for their energy management. As close and as accurate as there may be a need, there are metering tools to monitor the flow of electricity into and through their buildings.


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