There’s no question that energy efficiency is no longer a “flash in the pan” movement. No matter what utility rate facility owners are charged these days, there’s a near 100% probability it will be higher next month, next quarter, and definitely by next year. “Demand ratchets” in tariff structures penalize facilities for even a few minutes when they’ve had an abnormal spike in demand – and owners end up paying that demand rate for the rest of the year.
What does this mean? While many facility owner/operators truly want to be “green”– for their customers, tenants, guests and employees – the fact remains that “cash is king”. But what if cutting energy usage means adding margin to budgets . . . well, now that’s compelling.
The Challenges of Putting an Energy Management Plan into Action
Many times the common approach in creating an energy management plan is to bring in a firm that conducts a diligent re/retro-commissioning (RCx) study, often funded by the local utility. This is an excellent start to identifying savings opportunities in facilities. That said, here’s what we’ve found, and I’m sure that all respected engineering firms and energy efficiency consultants would wholeheartedly agree: Studies alone don’t equal realized savings.
Most RCx studies are robust and very thorough; that’s not the issue. The real challenge for any facility comes as those studies are completed and the results are delivered to the operations team . . . now someone has to actually execute the energy conservation measures (ECMs) identified in the findings. Typically, this is taken on by the operations and/or maintenance staff, many of whom are already busy enough with their daily responsibilities.
Additionally, operations teams agree on other points: First, there is no “silver bullet” strategy that captures all of the desired savings results in a facility, especially when they need those savings in the moment, i.e., an event alteration or sudden change in weather. Second, not all equipment nor all team members are created equal – meaning that facilities can have the best equipment, information and staff, but everything has inconsistencies that affect dependable occupant comfort. And finally, there is a great challenge within all live-event facilities to manually implement ECMs, and manually optimize their controls while still adhering to both saving energy and an event’s space requirements, i.e., eliminating humidity and keeping an arena cold during a hockey game. In summary, operations teams are doing everything “humanly possible” to achieve savings while not compromising the customer experience.
A Lot Gets Left Behind
With all of this to consider, how do the savings from ECMs actually get realized? After speaking with many facility operators, they’ve confirmed that they simply identify the “low-hanging fruit”, and then the operations team opportunistically takes care of only those items with the shortest payback and quickest turnaround. Unfortunately, the real-life, practical answer is that oftentimes the rest of that list, which may still result in solid savings over time if implemented, just never gets done. A great study delivered doesn’t mean that all desired results are achieved in the end.
Assuming that the internal operations team does in fact have time to implement all ECMs identified in the RCx study, ensuring those ECMs never drift to under-performance over time is another responsibility that someone has to own. Once again, the facilities operations staff is usually tasked with this, along with the many other duties they handle every day. What these facilities really need is the best of both worlds: implementation of all ECMs once they’re identified, and assurance that those savings opportunities will persist into the future without any regular attention needed.
Automated Savings that Persist: Where Saving Energy Meets Cost Savings
The good news? The best of all possible worlds actually does exist through the “automation of savings persistence” via SHIFT Energy’s EOSTM (Energy Optimization System) approach combined with an RCx study implementation or other efficiency efforts.
Basically, an updated building automation system (BAS) does a very good job at what it was designed to do: automate the building operations. However, this new perpetual savings approach actually enhances BAS operations (not replacing it) and does what the BAS was never designed to do: create savings opportunities in the building without manual intervention, and then automate the persistence of those savings every minute of every hour of every day.
With the savings persistence approach in place, it can maximize both the study’s ECMs along with ECMs that may not make sense to address manually, but still add up to compelling savings. By using software automation to create additional savings, now the RCx is a catalyst for delivering far more savings than it ever could by itself, or in the hands of an operations staff alone with all of their event-driven responsibilities.
Everyone wins . . . IF the approach is applied as soon as possible. For every month it’s not, lost savings add up to potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of annual profitability margin unrealized by the facility and their ownership (margin to put towards tenant or customer acquisition). An old saying is “no one loses their job by not saving energy.” Conversely, what might be the positive impact for a facility’s bottom line if this approach was actually enabled sooner, not later? What would that look like for facility ownership year after year?
The only way to ensure utility cost-savings measures will persist over time is through automating their persistence. It’s going beyond what’s “humanly possible”; reaping huge financial rewards consistently, while never compromising critical space requirements. Facilities have automated their building operations for decades. Now it’s time to automate cost-savings performance and ensure it persists into the future. It’s the only way to guarantee savings dependably for years to come.