Smart technologies and better energy management can lower energy demands and help achieve sustainability goals, argues Nicola Meadows, RWM Event Director at Ascential Events
Energy efficiency investments in the industrial, services and domestic markets are estimated to have increased the productivity of the UK economy by £1.7 billion between 2010 and 2015. This despite the efficiency of the electricity supply remaining broadly unchanged, and an increase in electricity prices over the same period. But far more significant energy productivity improvements are required to deliver the UK’s long-term climate goals, while supporting economic growth.
Intelligent building controls, smart metering and finely tuned data monitoring and analytics can help reduce the overall power demands of a facility, saving money as well as reducing a building’s carbon footprint as part of an overall power management strategy.
Smart meters drastically reduce the need for manual meter readings by digitally measuring gas and electricity readings and sending data directly to energy suppliers, resulting in up-to-date and highly accurate energy bills. Readings can be taken very regularly, every half hour, for instance, so facilities managers can also track peaks and troughs in usage.
Professional data management companies can help FMs to analyse smart meter data, providing comprehensive reports on a facility’s power consumption in order to target areas for efficiency savings and optimisation. Other small steps, like introducing low-energy lighting or increasing natural light sources, can also make a big difference to energy bills, and set a business on the path to a more sustainable future. New tools are also available to help FMs gain oversight and control of the amount of energy consumed in buildings, and improve efficiency.
At the same time, FMs should consider replacing traditional ‘on-off’ low voltage circuit breakers with the latest smart models that boast integrated energy management functions. Some of the models available have the potential to achieve substantial annual power savings, and typically provide a return on investment in terms of cost savings within one year.
Intelligent, energy-saving building controls for systems such as lighting and HVAC are also becoming more cost effective and offer short-term returns on investment. Some of the latest models on the market include infrared occupancy sensors which also automatically adjust to ambient light and other environmental conditions, and can be remotely monitored using apps on smartphones.
There is no reason why facilities managers should limit their analysis of their building’s efficiency to its power demands – water performance is also critical for reducing waste, for instance. Using low-flow toilets and fixtures can ensure that water usage is kept to a minimum, as part of a wider integrated sustainability strategy.
And it’s not just the money that can be saved on energy bills that provides a return on investment for facilities. The transparency of information that can be gained from tracking consumption so accurately hands control back to FMs. This information leads to targeted decisions and actions that will further drive the return on investment of the smart facility programme. The data provided by smart meters can make it easier to see if switching providers is worthwhile, for example, with newer smart meter models capable of operating with different suppliers.
Taking a smart, holistic approach to resource efficiency in a facility not only benefits the companies and individuals that run them, but also supports the stability of the wider power network. Put simply – it’s the smart thing to do.