Energy Data Drives Powerful Decisions

Some may view power as just a bunch of electrons flowing through the grid. However, informed energy managers know that energy and the data behind it can be a powerful source of information that can make a difference to their business’ bottom line. By having a clear, real time view of energy data, energy managers can use this information to guide purchasing, usage, and operations decisions.

Governments Call for Transparency Into Energy Usage


The data explosion has already influenced local and national regulations. Commercial building benchmarking laws—which are primarily based on data tracking and reporting—are in effect or in the planning stages in several regions. Five cities―New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, and the District of Columbia and two states California and Washington require large commercial building owners to rate their properties’ energy use and report that information during real estate transactions or on their websites.1

When building ownership groups and tenants have access to this detailed data, they can make better decisions on the value of a property and the operational costs associated with owning it.

Businesses Increase Focus on Data-Driven Products for Energy Management


The value of energy data for buildings goes far beyond real estate transactions. Businesses that buy and use power are putting data to work every day. Some, for example, take advantage of detailed real-time data on prices and trends in the wholesale energy markets to determine when to make the most advantageous purchases and to what extent. By combining the insights of real-time data with blended buying strategies, companies may mitigate their risk of exposure to price volatility by securing some of their power load at a fixed price, while taking advantage of advantageous market pricing through index purchases.

The real-time capabilities of the Internet provide yet another tool at an energy buyer’s fingertips to secure the best possible price for power. Reverse online auctions allow wholesale vendors to bid on the end-use buyer’s energy load, while such buyers monitor the process in real time. Reverse online auctions work to drive prices down by allowing wholesale vendors to compete for a buyer’s energy load based on the lowest bid—unlike a traditional auction where buyers compete against each other for a good or service and the price of that goes up incrementally as potential buyers compete to win.

Businesses Put Consumption Data to Work to Improve Operational Efficiency and Costs

Companies that capture and analyze data about their electricity usage can use that information to identify ways to modify their operations and save money on energy costs. Here’s how:

  • Utility invoices provide a wealth of data that can be analyzed—both to find potential billing discrepancies and to learn, in detail, where and how a company is consuming energy. It can be difficult to standardize and compare data over multiple invoices for multiple sites, but, according to consultants who work in invoice management and auditing, it’s not unusual to find billing discrepancies that lead to savings of one to three percent. Depending on how large a company’s energy spend is, this can amount to a lot of money. In addition, a business can use invoice data to calculate energy cost per square foot across several sites and see where to focus cost- and energy-saving efforts.
  • "Smart meters," which are digital meters that provide data about power consumption in real time or at specified intervals, offer a direct view into a business’ energy usage. That information can be used to identify significant operating efficiencies, especially for businesses with high consumption. A manufacturer, for instance, might use real-time metering to understand exactly how much power contributes to the cost of producing its products. Managers can also use minute-by-minute production line data to assess efficiency (or inefficiencies) and pinpoint operational issues, then test new approaches in real time. These kinds of opportunities can help a company improve energy efficiency, reduce its carbon footprint and increase profitability.
    Once a company has a smart meter installed to collect the needed data, sophisticated software can aggregate real-time pricing figures, detailed demand information, and business-specific operating characteristics, adding information about weather forecasts and other factors influencing usage. By integrating and analyzing multiple streams of energy-related data, a business can gain extensive control over its costs and usage.

A Smart Energy Grid Relies On Smart Data

The nation’s power grid needs to meet the growing demand for electricity, while at the same time becoming more reliable, reducing the environmental consequences of generation and distribution, and enabling providers and their customers to collaborate on new, more efficient business models. A “smart grid” is evolving to meet those needs, and it relies heavily on data management to succeed.2

The smart grid is being implemented by adding monitoring, analysis, control, and communication capabilities to the existing national electrical delivery system. The intended result: to maximize the performance of the system while using market forces to reduce energy consumption. Overall, the insight and control provided by the smart grid is expected to improve the efficiency of the whole power system and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.3

The data provided by the smart grid will enhance the ability of a business to make informed decisions about when and how it uses energy. Real-time data from the smart grid will also greatly enhance a business’s ability to participate in demand response.

Demand response programs provide payments or credits to businesses that are able to reduce (or shift) their electricity peak usage. Based on programs currently offered by utilities and Independent System Operators (ISOs), companies with this flexibility can earn up to ten percent of their power costs by agreeing to use less energy than expected for brief periods, as called upon by the ISO.

1 "Calls for Energy Transparency Grow Louder" REIT.com article: http://www.reit.com/Articles/Calls-for-Energy-Transparency-Grow-Louder.aspx
2 "Smart Grid" article on energy.gov website: http://energy.gov/oe/technology-development/smart-grid
3 "What is Smart Grid and why is it important?" article on National Electrical Manufacturers Association website: http://www.nema.org/gov/energy/smartgrid/whatIsSmartGrid.cfm

Coffe

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