The Smart Energy Analytics Campaign, a four-year study funded by the Department of Energy examining the use of energy management and information systems, has revealed savings across the board, with the 104 participating organizations saving roughly $95 million annually.
Energy management and information systems, or EMIS, are “smart building analytics technologies used to reveal hidden energy waste and optimize operation of buildings systems, such as HVAC and lighting,” explains the team from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that conducted the study. Their findings represent the first real-world, large-scale body of evidence backing up the value of EMIS technology.
Here’s what you need to know about the EMIS study and how you can make the technology work for you.
How EMIS Works
The campaign data covered the two most prevalent types of EMIS capabilities. Energy information systems use smart meters to find energy waste, while fault detection and diagnostics tools detect and prioritize faults in your HVAC system. The systems analyze information from sources like interval meters, weather stations, your BAS and IoT devices and allow you to look for trends and usage spikes that shouldn’t be happening—for example, a chiller that runs at night when the building is unoccupied. You can then address these sources of energy waste to save money.
Begin by defining the data you already have available and how you’ll use it, recommended Jessica Granderson, Berkeley Lab staff scientist. Carleton College, for example, compiled 135 meters and 120 utility accounts into a database that fed into an energy information system, then leveraged analytics to help inform its energy management team.
“Start very intentionally, and pursue more of a spec-driven process,” Granderson advised. “Get a glimpse into some technology offerings, talk to your peers and ask ‘What do you use?’, get some demos and really think in terms of which analyses you will use to perform specific energy management and O&M processes, and therefore what capabilities you need.”
Launch a smaller-scale pilot at first so you can get a handle on how your EMIS works without overloading your team. This could mean starting with a single building or focusing on one or two building systems where you suspect you have performance issues.
It can also be advantageous to combine your EMIS installation with existing building commissioning, like the facilities staff at Kerry’s Technology and Innovation Center in Beloit, WI. The Kerry team wanted a better view into how the HVAC systems were operating in their 320,000-square-foot office, laboratory and manufacturing facility.
Installing fault detection and diagnostics software made it easier for their small facilities team to find systems that weren’t well controlled, wasted energy or needed repairs. They worked with the commissioning provider to combine their commissioning project with the software installation, then used the software to look for long-term savings.
[Related: How to Manage Your First Lighting Retrofit]
Jamestown began piloting EMIS technology in 2013, and then expanded its program in 2017 by implementing an energy information system that enables their operations and sustainability teams to view hourly energy data, in real time, for a majority of the office assets within the firms’ 29 million square foot portfolio.
A key component for the successful rollout was the inclusion of email and text alerts, and user-friendly dashboards that would easily display and track key metrics for building operations, including:
- Actual costs vs. budget
- Alerts based on deviation from predicted demand
- Base load report for weekday unoccupied hours
- Peak demand compared to target
Jamestown’s engineers and corporate operations teams can now review these metrics from both a portfolio-level and building-level view, allowing them to find further efficiencies. They also created an implementation checklist to help building teams fully engage with the software.
“This software gives users visibility into the unexpected and helps them navigate unexplained energy spikes that aren’t obvious – a cooling tower that starts up every night at 3 a.m. and shuts off at 5 a.m., for example,” explained Becca Rushin, vice president of sustainability and social responsibility for Jamestown LP. “We used the analytics to recalibrate building equipment in real time, rather than having to wait for a monthly bill and looking for a needle in a haystack.”
Jamestown achieved a 4 percent energy savings during its first year in the campaign, and five of its properties achieved savings from 16-21 percent, according to the Smart Energy Analytics Campaign. The company also used the software to reduce energy waste during the height of COVID, between March and October 2020, by closely monitoring operations during periods of reduced building occupancy.
One key to success was involving the operating and engineering staffs early on—as Rushin explained, “They’re the people who will use the tool the most, so it makes sense to get their input on what they need.”
For more information on the Smart Energy Analytics Campaign and how to launch an EMIS installation for your organization, visit smartenergyanalytics.org.