The challenges of reducing energy

Industry comment

Published: 01 October

Author: Alan O'Brien

Type: Industry comment

Year: 2009

The challenges of reducing energy  

Sourcing, installing and then measuring the performance of energy efficiency technologies can be a complex process. David Bakst, Operations Director at Sabien Technology outlines the key things to do well in order to reduce your energy consumption and CO2 emissions.  

The majority of organisations we speak to are looking for proven solutions to fast track their push to reduce their CO2 emissions and energy consumption.Very often the Facility Management (FM) supplier will be responsible for identifying such opportunities and will also be expected to evaluate potential solutions, manage roll out, validate results and report back to senior management, all of which is not without its complexities and pitfalls.

As a company that has built its reputation in project managing the installation of its own patented energy efficiency technology, M2G, we have accumulated considerable knowledge and experience of running nationwide multi-site installation programs and building strong stakeholder relationships. While our methodology and approach is specific to our technology, the underlying philosophy I believe can be adopted for other technology roll out projects.

Before you get started, you need to understand how much energy you are consuming so start by base-lining your energy consumption and with the Carbon Reduction Commitment coming into force in April 2010, it’s vital organisations (that qualify) can accurately calculate and report on their CO2 emissions. Now start to identify areas of potential energy savings “quick wins” either behavioural or technical which are proven to deliver quick paybacks (usually within two years). To find out more about verifying your energy savings click here

Having identified the areas of focus it’s now necessary to identify potential solutions. At this juncture it’s worth taking references from your peers within your industry by attending seminars and energy forums where you will meet people who hopefully have addressed the issues you have identified. It’s also a great opportunity to glean crucial information on your suppliers reputation and their product claims.

The next step is to understand how each product applies itself to your specific set of issues and how effectively it’s been deployed by other companies. This is where third party client references can prove valuable.

Suppliers should provide a forecast on the level of savings that can be expected, bearing in mind that actual savings will be influenced by other factors such as weather, changes in building occupancy etc. So it makes sense to be conservative when estimating projected return on investment, your technology supplier should be able to help you with this by providing client references and proven past results. Another important issue is to ensure that any such works will not impact on comfort conditions in the building(s) as this could lead to complaints from internal customers.

M2G installations

Meaningful measurements

Evaluating the success of any such project depends on the amount of energy reduced and the payback period, measuring this is complex. Automatic meter reading (AMR) has been seen by many as a universal panacea, but this is not always the case. AMR is measuring the total volume of energy being consumed by the building or site, not the individual plant consuming the energy. Therefore using AMR data in some instances is too high level to gain an accurate assessment of the savings being achieved where energy efficiency technology has been fitted.

Installing sub-metering is one solution to verifying gas consumption at plant level, but it is expensive to implement. To overcome this approach, we have developed a ‘toggling’ technique for our specific technology that switches between running the M2G one day and then bypassing it the next, usually over a period of one month. The result is a comparison of ‘with and without’ an energy saving device for each boiler. The general principles can be applied to many different types of projects.

However, there will still be temperature variation from one day to the next, so these figures need to be adjusted by using degree day analysis. Degree days quantify the daily ambient temperatures for a given region to help account for the effects of weather on energy consumption. Where more precise evaluation is required, degree days for the region can be replaced by a temperature data-logger to gather onsite temperature data.

Pre and post installation - kWh vs. Degree Day

In addition, the changes in energy consumption over longer periods of time (pre, during and post project) can be established by CUSUM analysis, a tool that examines trends for sequential events over time. Approved for assessing energy projects by the Carbon Trust, CUSUM analysis is effective for viewing overall trends in energy consumption.

 CUSUM analysis pre and post M2G installation

In parallel with accurate measurement, it’s important to ensure that energy reduction initiatives are carried out one at a time. If there are two projects running simultaneously for the same energy source, for instance, it will be virtually impossible to determine which is responsible for the results by using CUSUM.

Similarly, it’s important to be aware of other changes in the building that could impact the results. These include changes in the occupancy and occupant behaviour, changes to the building fabric, plant failure, changes to equipment configuration and, surprisingly, disablement of the new energy saving device by others who may not have been privy to program in the first place.

I can’t emphasise just how important it is to include all stakeholders in the process. They’ll appreciate your consultation, respect you for doing so and it will go a long way to helping you achieve technology adoption throughout your chain of influence.

Smooth implementation

Energy efficiency projects usually fall outside an FM’s proactive/reactive/core service offering so your technology supplier should manage as much of the project as is possible. In a recently completed estate wide roll-out of M2G at AVIVA, we managed the project from start to finish. The client simply provided us with details of the relevant site contacts and we took it from there ensuring every stakeholder was briefed on the project and our terms of reference of the same.

The majority of the factors mentioned here will apply to most energy savings projects and, in our experience, addressing each of these issues in advance will help to ensure a smooth implementation. These are exemplified by the roll out project for AVIVA click here to read about the AVIVA project

As featured in the September 2009 edition of Practical FM