Rethinking Energy Management Requirements

Urjanet Inc  |  February 19, 2016   |  Energy & Sustainability  


This post was originally written by Daniel Frey, President of THG Energy Solutions, LLC

Your life as the corporate energy manager

As the corporate energy manager, you are responsible for driving energy cost reduction, monitoring performance, and navigating ever-growing challenges. Your unbundled natural gas and electric supply deals are expiring and you need to shop them around to ensure you get the best price and value. Your phone is ringing off the hook with brokers and suppliers, all promising the best price and service.

You do your best to organize incomplete spreadsheets of the past twelve months’ bills and load profiles. Nothing is easily accessed in a common platform — it’s all hand-to-hand combat and manual processes, with heavy editing. Individual utility websites are hard to pull data from and often outdated or broken. Who has time to monitor 50 different websites across 15 regions?

You scrape together some market assessments on forward price. You talk to your operations group and try your best to forecast your load. You know that “full requirements” offers are expensive, but you don’t have good enough load profiles or the ability to avoid peak pricing. Of course, you still have budget constraints and need capital for efficiency improvements. On top of all this, new corporate mandates for greenhouse gas tracking, energy disclosure laws, and sustainability reporting are increasing the pressure.

It’s 6:30 p.m. and you’re late for your son’s basketball game…again…and you haven’t had lunch yet. Next time, you swear it’ll be different.

The demand for better, easily accessible energy data is intensifying

Data is fundamental to your energy management strategy. As the complexity of energy management continues to increase, the need for timely, easy-to-use energy data is escalating:

  • You are continuously required to monitor and review program and tariff updates from utilities and suppliers.
  • Facilities (even the fully regulated ones) have new energy efficiency programs, real-time and time-of-use programs, and demand response and demand reduction opportunities.
  • There are financial savings opportunities in energy efficiency upgrades, demand management, and distributed energy alternatives, which are very difficult to quantify, evaluate, measure, and manage if data is contained in disparate formats and places.
  • Building performance needs to constantly be monitored. However, figuring out how to leverage data from utility smart meters, sub-meters, intelligent building automation systems, and ADR controllers is near impossible because they spew out interval data in obscure or unattainable formats.
  • Benchmarking, budgeting, weather normalization, ENERGY STAR portfolio management, and GHG reporting are more commonly being requested and even required for commercial transactions.
  • Business energy metric projects for measuring energy usage and effectiveness are stacking up.
  • Accountability, data access, and reporting requirements are expanding well beyond staff capabilities.
  • Sometimes, just reviewing and paying the bills prior to incurring late fees requires superhuman skills.

The good news is that several energy solutions providers are now capable of offering all of these services in one easy SaaS-based platform. The best of these platforms provide easy access to data and turnkey services to streamline payment, processing, full sustainability and efficiency analysis, and the integration of smart meter and interval data. As you review your options, make sure that you get everything you need into one centralized place. Working with multiple energy management and analytics platforms defeats the purpose.

New requirements for energy intelligence systems are emerging

Energy intelligence systems give users visibility into three major energy cost drivers: how energy is procured, how much energy is consumed, and when energy is used. With more scrutiny on energy consumption and recent advancements in technology, corporate energy managers more than ever need energy management solutions and are requiring new functionality from energy intelligence systems in addition to their traditional prerequisites.

The traditional energy intelligence system requirements include:

  • Efficient bill processing and bill payment with flexibility around payment processes that avoids late fees, efficiently shares information across the organization, and provides timely access to billing data.
  • Secure (SOC compliant) multi-user access with a flexible tree structure for viewing and admin rights.
  • Full billing, cost, usage, demand, and interval data management capabilities that are open source or agnostic to metering and building automation equipment providers.
  • A variety of notification and analysis tools for customizable cost, usage, demand, and error flags. Tariff analysis and bill recreation is certainly a sought-after capability for higher cost or problematic meters.
  • Actionable performance benchmarking with weather-normalized base period metrics and easily definable facility peer groups.
  • Bottom-up, aggregated budgeting tools for both cost and usage with flexible pricing and forecasting capabilities.
  • Internal and external benchmarking, energy intensity analysis, weather normalization, and facility data templates for ENERGY STAR, energy disclosure compliance, sustainability and GHG reporting, and business energy metrics, along with customized reporting and fully downloadable data.

The emerging requirements for energy intelligence systems are:

  • Universal interval data capture capabilities for sub-metering with Modbus, BACnet, and other common communication protocols.
  • Integration with Distributed Energy Resources (DER) for monitoring and managing solar, battery, and other DER opportunities.
  • Real-time pricing access for LMP nodal prices, time-of-use pricing, and other price and demand related information.
  • Active notifications, such as text messaging and email alerts, around critical pricing, demand events, 4CP/5CP forecasts, and grid and utility-based notices.

After reviewing the lists above, it might be obvious that having an easier, more streamlined energy data aggregation process and better systems for measuring, monitoring, and acting upon energy data will continue to grow in importance and intensity. The shifting landscape of stakeholder expectations, evolving regulations, and new opportunities through technology are all driving the demand for more robust solutions that can integrate all types of energy data streams and drive actionable insights.

Happy hunting, and don’t miss that basketball game!

To learn how Urjanet’s Utility Data Platform empowers energy managers, download our Solutions Sheet: Utility Data for Energy Management and Procurement. And if you’re ready to start leveraging your utility data with Urjanet, contact us today.

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About Urjanet Inc

Urjanet, the global leader in utility data aggregation, simplifies how organizations access and use utility data, enabling them to focus on their business. Our technology collects, processes, and delivers data from over 6,500 electric, natural gas, water, waste, telecom, and cable utilities worldwide.

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