Curbing the Energy Curve

04/30/2013 | By Christopher Curtland

An inch-deep, mile-wide strategy carries energy management across the portfolio of Duke Realty

In order to realize significant energy savings, you need to take your energy pulse and then strengthen and monitor it – but it’s difficult to manage energy when you only have 12 data points a year from utility bills.

Gathering energy baselines across a portfolio is a unique challenge, but it doesn’t necessarily require outside consultants or fancy equipment. Attaining profiles can start simply with interval data taken every 15 minutes from a smart or shadow meter – because 35,000 data points per year open up a lot more opportunity.

“This technique can be quickly deployed across the portfolio instead of focusing on one building and gives us tremendous leverage,” says Paul Quinn, strategic execution officer of Duke Realty, a publicly traded REIT.

Quinn has implemented energy management strategies across 122 of the firm’s 300+ office buildings utilizing an inch-deep, mile-wide philosophy. It entails drawing energy curves that graph kW and occupancy, then applying an analytics package to them.

“When people hear that term – ‘analytics’ – it seems big, complicated, and expensive. Some vendors want to come in, track thousands of points, and run hundreds of rules, but you’ll get overwhelmed trying to do all that at once. Just start simple. Get a good, robust framework that will let you expand over time,” Quinn says. “For us, it’s more important to get breadth and commonality than it is to drill down a foot.”

Once you have the sketch of the curve, you can begin shaping it, lowering its height, and monitoring any shifts from normal. These five steps will ensure your energy pulse isn’t left to flatline.

1) Gather Data and Draw the Curve
The seeds of Quinn’s strategy were planted about five years ago by shadowing utility meters at Duke Realty’s office buildings. The data was graphed into energy profiles.

“We took these kilowatt demand curves and tried to teach people how to distinguish good shapes from bad ones. However, their analysis across different markets wasn’t consistent,” Quinn explains. “That led us to look for an analytics package that could interpret all the data and automatically identify opportunities for savings.”

When selecting among the plethora of analytics packages available, Quinn and the firm decided that having the ability to write their own rules for the program was important. Some systems require the rules to be written by the provider, Quinn explains, and he has since determined that the SkySparks package was the right decision. It also has a simple, intuitive user interface that allows technicians to easily see what energy-saving opportunities the program has identified.

Duke Realty employed the package almost two years ago, starting with just two data points – kilowatt readings every 15 minutes and occupancy.

“With only those two measures, we identified a major aspect of the energy problem,” he says.

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