Do we need ‘New’ technology to drive down energy consumption?
Throughout my years as an ‘Energy Expert’ I have seen some amazing technologies evolve in the industry from Building Management Systems (BMS) to LED Lighting and now to Batteries. My question is, do we need this technology to make a difference? If engineers, consultants and organisations were to spend more time and money investing in focusing on the problem, the global carbon targets may have been reached by now.
You are probably wondering where I am going to take this conversation? Over my many years of making savings on energy consumption, the highest gains have been by focusing on the existing systems, staff behaviour and providing visibility to energy data and not necessarily by implementing technology.
Lets go back to the 80’s. BMS was not considered in buildings because of the cost and the only organisations that had a BMS were power stations and pharmaceuticals. It was not until the late 80’s and early 90’s that buildings started to be installed and as more and more investment was made into the industries, organisations started to see the benefits.
Don’t get me wrong though, I am a big supporter of the BMS as long as it is maintained, supported by the manufacturer and all the staff are provided with training. Without all of this, the trouble begins.
If we follow the story about LED’s , this timeline is very similar with high costs and low quality but when this technology received significant investment it became low cost and high in quality. How often though do you now hear that there is no real concern to turn off the LEDs because they are very low wattage? (But they are still consuming energy).
This timeline can be considered for each new technology we see enter the industry, and the next I’m sure will be ‘Batteries’.
This all creates an issue where the true energy management strategy has not been addressed.
I feel we are still missing a significant process though, if we implement all this technology without focusing on the existing systems, staff behaviour and providing visibility to energy data.
I always say “Energy Management is a journey” and it must have a strategy applied. I once had a meeting with a very large organisation and was asked to help them with a £250,000 sub metering project. At the time I was very shocked that there was no energy management strategy. The energy manager wanted to review their energy consumption by area and by occasion. An absolute brilliant idea, but I was sitting there in front of them with all their interval data, which I secured for no cost.
Needless to say I did not win this work but a journey must start simply with ‘Data’.
An energy management’s journey is to gather the data, review and understand your existing systems.
- Data collection
- Review data
- Review existing systems
- Review people
- Baseline on data
- Implement low cost strategies
- Enhance existing systems
- Work with the people
The pay off to points 1 to 8 could be secured in 12 months and then as an organisation you can start reviewing technologies. You can do this in house or you could engage an expert to deliver this. Either way, the payback would easily be within 6 months.
To get started on this process is the same starting process that you would need to start with if you wanted to install technology and that is to firstly review your data for the last 12months. This will all come with faster payback and more return on investment. What would you choose?