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How to use data-driven energy management to meet ESG targets

Blog from Fabio Monachesi, Global Leader of Energy Management, for ABB Electrification

Establishing an effective sustainability strategy is essential to helping facilities managers and their organisations meet increasingly stringent environmental targets. However, without knowing how much energy is being used and where its being used most, it’s difficult to understand the most impactful improvements that can be made. After all, you can’t manage or improve what you can’t measure.

That is why being able to visualise your facility’s energy consumption using energy management tools is important and why more and more organisations are choosing a data-driven approach to support the development of their sustainability strategies.

The first step for organisations who want to introduce energy management for either single or multi-site facilities, should be to carry out a concise assessment of current energy usage. The best place to start is with your bills.

At the first stage of energy management, facility owners and managers need to use the data from their utility bills as well as any available building information, to investigate and virtually separate their energy costs to identify possible areas of excess energy consumption. To do this effectively, you’ll need a large dataset as this will help you reveal trends and patterns (seasonal peaks for example). Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms can be really helpful in analysing the information too.

If you aren’t sure how to go about this, call in the services of an energy service company (ESCO) who can do audits and start creating actionable reports on your behalf. Enlisting the support of an expert service provider early on in the process can really pay dividends when it comes to maximising energy management as quickly as possible. If you need to kickstart your sustainability and environmental plans, this could be a good place to start!

Usually, a consultant will request as much historical site data as possible, so gathering information is always the right place to start, using the utility bills of the facility, building information systems and any on field sensors.

Once you have assessed how much energy you have used historically, you can develop realistic benchmark targets for your sustainability strategy.

Next, you need to understand what’s happening now, as that’s what you can influence.

To be able to monitor your energy use and identify where there are issues that need resolving, you need access to real-time information about how your energy-consuming equipment is performing. This requires device connectivity. Many circuit breakers, meters, relays, EV-chargers and inverters for example are now digital-enabled and these products can be connected – along with IoT sensors – to an on-site connectivity infrastructure or dashboard with widgets so you can visualise the energy use of your key assets.

Using the data gathered during your monitoring, you can create output reports to analyse KPIs and recommend energy saving actions that could help you achieve your benchmark targets – for example, upgrading ageing plant which is not operating efficiently. Energy forecasting analytics can make this stage easier and more accurate.

This stage defines and visualises asset targets and looks at how performance can be optimised to reach your target KPIs. Smart connected products such as power quality converters, uninterrupted power suppliers (UPS), transfer switching and advanced relays feeding into an optimisation engine, can all help you realise improved outcomes.

The last step is to control and carefully adjust the asset setpoints for energy efficiency and service continuity strategies to meet your changing ESG targets. To help, facility managers could also consider pre-engineered reference architectures with Edge controllers, smart connected products, and perhaps investment in on-site renewable-based technology solutions, such as microgrids, battery energy storage systems (BESS) and renewable energy generation, like solar panels.

By following these five stages, FMs and their organisations can begin the journey towards more efficient energy management practice. As well as saving energy and meeting sustainability targets, there are other benefits for FMs and their organisations, in not only boosting their green credentials but saving on OPEX. Data insights can help with the forecasting of energy usage, increasing efficiency up to 30 per cent and reducing costs with a potential payback of less than three years.

Meeting sustainability targets can feel like a mountain to climb, but with smart energy management tools to help visualise energy use and highlight the areas where excess usage is occurring, putting an informed strategy in place that will help meet ESG commitments suddenly becomes much more achievable.

About Sarah OBeirne

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