In a nut shell
An energy management information system is a tool for supporting decision-making with the aim of improving energy performance. In general, systems consist of a range of elements such as software tools, meters and sub-meters, sensors and data recording infrastructure. Just as Energy MAP should be integrated into existing management structures, where possible, the energy information system should also be integrated into existing management systems.
Monitoring and targeting of energy can be carried out using specialised software packages or simple spreadsheets. Your choice of approach will be based on the size and complexity of your site. However, whatever approach you use, the basic principles will be similar and the golden rule applies: the quality of your M&T system will only be as good as the quality of your data.
Energy monitoring is aimed at identifying energy consumption patterns, whilst energy targeting is based on the setting of desirable energy consumption levels. These form part of an energy management information system which is a vital tool in helping you gain control over energy, reduce costs and improve profits. The primary benefit is the identification of irregular patterns of consumption and initiation of corrective action.
The basic processes carried out in an energy management information system include:
- Record – measure and record energy consumption and the factors that influence it;
- Normalise – normalise energy data to take account of the such influencing factors;
- Analyse – identify consumption trends and compare with historical data and/or relevant benchmarks;
- Target – establish targets for reducing energy consumption;
- Monitor – check for irregular consumption patterns and compare consumption with set targets;
- Report – report the results to relevant decision-makers;
- Control – implement corrective or preventive measures to control consumption.
The first step is to collect energy consumption, energy cost, building floor area, production data (for industrial processes) and data on the factors that influence energy consumption. Part of this process will consist of analysing electricity and other fuel bills and taking regular meter readings.
Analysing and normalising
The next stage is to analyse the data and understand consumption patterns. What factors influence consumption? For example, is it hours of operation, production levels (for industrial processes) or occupancy levels? Having normalised the data according to such factors, energy consumption can then be compared with historical data and/or relevant benchmarks and targets can be set. Methods of analysis include CUSUM and regression analysis, amongst others.
Monitoring enables detection of unusual changes in consumption patterns, while in the longer term comparisons can be made with consumption targets. The frequency at which it is carried out, depends on the particular application and the ability to respond to the monitored results. For a high energy using application where changes can be made quickly, data monitored at 15 minute intervals may be appropriate. However, for equipment where maintenance may be required, such as air conditioning or refrigeration plant, then daily or weekly monitoring may be appropriate.
Reports should be clear, concise (where necessary), relevant, informative, contain robust data, and be delivered at the right time. Energy reports may be included as part of broader reports, and in many cases this may be desirable. Questions to ask yourself before producing a report include:
- Is a report needed?
- What are the objectives of the report?
- Who is the report for?
- What information should the report include?
- Does the report include information for the reader to take the necessary action?
- What actions are required?
Reports may be required for top management, accounts, operations, engineering, estates etc. However, the contents of the report, its language and the level of detail must be tailored to each target audience. Reports for senior managers, should be more concise and focus more on €’s than kWh’s. They will normally include an overview of performance against targets. Reports may also be used to promote the achievements of Energy MAP, for example when savings have been made or targets exceeded. Operations management and staff will require more detailed reports and specific information enabling them to take action in the case of irregularities in energy consumption.
In general, reports should contain the necessary information needed for the user to take action – no more and no less.
The outputs of an energy management information system will generally include the following:
- Identification of unusual changes in consumption patterns;
- Rationale for energy savings projects;
- Analysis of historical data;
- Evidence (reports) on performance against targets, including demonstrating success;
- Underpinning of decision making and budgeting.
Hardware and software
The hardware for an energy information system will normally consist of metering, data loggers, sensors, instrumentation, networks and IT infrastructure.
Computerised systems can range from simple spreadsheets and databases to specialised software packages that can automatically carry out the processes from recording, analysing through to reporting. Software packages can also interface with building management systems (BMS).
It should be remembered that whilst smaller firms will not have the need to invest in such sophisticated hard/software however, the basic tenets of measuring and monitoring should apply. Also, ordinary software such as spreadsheet and database applications used on an everyday basis can be used effectively.
Points to consider when deciding on software to manage energy :
Aims – what are your trying to achieve? Ensure that you can act on the outputs of any system otherwise the information will be of limited use (see ‘Action’ below).
Site size – in general, the bigger the site the more comprehensive the software.
Infrastructure – what hardware infrastructure do you have in place and what is required for a particular software system?
Staff – do you have sufficient staff to run a system and act on the information it provides? Is training required?
The energy management information system should also include management procedures for ensuring that the information produced is acted upon and the resulting actions are followed-up. Otherwise, there is little point in having an energy management information system at all!
Further information and guidance
Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS). Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
Energy Management Information Systems – a handbook for managers, engineers and operational staff. Canadian Industry Program for Energy Conservation, Office of Energy Efficiency, Natural Resources Canada.
Download at: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/publications/industrial/EMIS/index.cfm?Text=N&PrintView=N
Degree days for energy management – a practical introduction. Good Practice Guide 310. The Carbon Trust, UK.
Monitoring and targeting systems for Universities – choosing and using the best system for your site. Good Practice Guide 327. The Carbon Trust, UK.
An introductory guide to energy performance assessment – analysing your own performance. Good Practice Guide 352. The Carbon Trust, UK.
Monitoring and targeting in small and medium sized companies. Good Practice Guide 125. The Carbon Trust, UK.
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