Metering, monitoring and control technology systems reduce energy consumption—directly, through improved control and, indirectly, by making energy consumption ‘visible’ without requiring staff to read meters. They also enable benchmarking of energy usage and assist in the identification and evaluation of energy efficiency opportunities. The combined effect of motivating staff and revealing energy consumption patterns often leads to cost-free savings.
Developments in communications technology have helped bring costs down, making advanced metering a more viable proposition for medium-sized businesses. Advanced energy-metering systems link into control technologies to provide flexible, sophisticated control of energy-using systems according to varying conditions. They also improve control accuracy, including production yield, quality and consistency.
There are often energy efficiency opportunities from implementing energy metering, monitoring and control systems or in optimising, upgrading or replacing systems depending on system capabilities.
Optimise the use of existing metering systems
Data gathered from existing meters can be better used to assist in understanding energy consumption and identifying efficiency opportunities. Valuable information is often available, such as meter readings taken over a long period, which have not been mined for the insights they can provide.
One of the biggest opportunities with existing energy metering (including utility billing meters and local metering) and management systems is ensuring that the energy consumption, trends and key performance indicator data is received by the people who can influence energy efficiency. Automating the communication of this data ensures visibility, and can facilitate presentation in a suitable form.
Energy usage analysis and efficiency opportunity identification
Data on energy consumption, and the variables which influence it, can be used to identify energy efficiency opportunities and assist with the quantification of those opportunities for preparing business cases. Metering and monitoring can be broken down to pinpoint energy consumption according to the areas of a building or factory, the major energy using processes, and usage during specified time frames.
Energy metering and monitoring enables benchmarking of current energy usage and comparisons across different locations, e.g. sites and transport fleets. It also enables comparisons between a company’s energy performance and figures from design calculations as well as theoretical best practice. This can assist the quantification of the potential for energy efficiency improvement.
Improved control complements the installation of more flexible plant equipment, such as variable speed motor drives and variable heat sources, by allowing them to be operated optimally. The demands on most energy-using systems vary according to factors such as weather, time of day, production volumes, product mix, feedstock characteristics, building occupancy, etc. An energy management technology system can improve control accuracy (higher production yield, more consistent product quality, better comfort) by controlling energy-using equipment according to system demands.
Minimise use of appliances
Heat or cool rooms only when they’re in use, and take maximum advantage of natural warmth, cool air and breezes. Use thermostats or HVAC management software to schedule and control the operation of appliances.
The pace of energy management systems development is rapidly increasing as:
- computer technologies evolve
- controls, equipment and components become cheaper
- focus on energy management and emissions reduction intensifies
- demand for skilled staff increases
Continuing and future developments include:
- data collection, intelligent control and communication capabilities being increasingly devolved to intelligent energy-using equipment, appliances, and other distributed intelligent devices
- increased communication among energy-using devices, meters, sensors and controllers, and sharing of data among systems
- wireless sub-metering, including self-powered modules
- more open-source data formats and communication protocols
- movement of electronic data and applications to the internet (cloud storage)
- real-time energy efficiency benchmarking and model validation and calibration
These developments and trends, combined with higher energy prices and network charges, and the increasing focus on greenhouse gas emissions, will increase the already rapid uptake of energy metering, monitoring and control systems.
Metering Best Practices: A Guide to Achieving Utility Resource Efficiency (PDF 9.6MB) US Department of Energy
Advanced metering for SMEs UK Carbon Trust