Protect & Survive
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
Mike Sewell, Energy Services Director at Interserve, introduces a new approach to load management
In a world where we are increasingly reliant on technology, a power outage can see entire organisations brought to a standstill – with major ramifications. Not only do reduced or non-operational services have significant financial implications, they harm a company’s reputation, weakening the trust of both customers and employees. Put simply, for today’s workforce – who are used to technology working mostly without fail and always being online – a complete loss of power for a sustained amount of time just isn’t acceptable.
The answer lies in effective load management, balancing supply against demand to avoid either a critical reduction in energy supply – a brownout – or a complete blackout of power. Technological advances make this entirely possible. By looking to tools such as smart meters to record power usage within a building, detailed dynamic information on energy consumption can be gathered, helping to develop a much better understanding of how spaces across a building use power throughout the working day and across the year. In turn, this data can be analysed and used to manage loading across an estate.
When space is completely empty, having all the equipment powered up is not just unnecessary and wasteful, it reduces capacity in the building network as a whole. Being able to identify peak and minimum periods of energy use means that by dynamically managing loading across a building or estates, pressure on the local power network can be relieved when demand is high, helping to prevent a potential local blackout. There is also the opportunity to sign up to various balancing services procured by National Grid, which can bring financial benefits.
At the same time, creating a bank of information on energy usage can help identify anomalies – for example, an abnormal load within a part of an estate which could be caused by a piece of faulty equipment. The problem can then be fixed before it becomes a risk to the overall network.
Such a data-led approach to energy use makes it possible to plan for many eventualities and risks to service. However, investment in the necessary tools and training is absolutely crucial. Interserve undertook a research project in partnership with the University of Cambridge to assess the current risks and opportunities to organisations and determine how best to add value for our customers. Using this research, we aim to create a practical guide for FM professionals outlining the steps required to put these ideas into practice and manage energy use more effectively.
When it comes to power outages, prevention is better than cure. The way forward is to adopt a more holistic approach to energy management which focuses on an increasingly forensic assessment of how we use our buildings – investing in new tools to effectively capture and analyse data on energy use. This has the potential not just to bring cost efficiencies, but to protect organisations’ reputations, create security for customers – and provide an opportunity for FM to prove its worth.