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As an energy manager, you may not realize that you can turn your facilities into "virtual power plants” by cutting back on energy usage. You can save money, reduce air pollution, cut your facility's carbon footprint—and even earn revenue from energy providers.

You can do all this through demand side energy management—strategies that cut back on how much energy your facility needs.

Here’s how demand side energy management works: In the past, electricity suppliers built new power plants to meet their growing demand. But these days, building new power plants is expensive, takes a long time and can boost rates for businesses like yours.

So electricity providers have switched their strategy to one that involves you, the energy user. They will pay customers like you to reduce your usage under certain circumstances. In trimming your usage, your business becomes a virtual—invisible but powerful—power plant, providing kilowatt-hour reductions, sometimes during times of critical need. Energy providers are willing to pay you because reducing demand helps them avoid making large investments in building new power plants.

In fact, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, industrial efficiency programs are one of the best ways to keep energy prices low for all customers.i

At Direct Energy Business, demand side energy management is part of our Total Energy Management strategy, which involves taking a big-picture view of your energy usage and identifying creative ways to buy less of what we sell—and improving your bottom line. 

Let’s take a closer look at some demand side energy management strategies that allow you and your energy provider to benefit from operating as efficiently as possible.

Reduce Energy Use and Potentially Earn Revenue with Demand Response 

 Demand Response

Demand response can be an effective strategy for earning money while cutting your utility’s need to generate electricity during times of high demand. 

Demand response works like this: Your energy provider will help you identify non-disruptive ways to trim your energy usage when the provider is experiencing peak demand. For example, you may be able to pre-cool your facilities before your energy provider’s demand starts spiking, or change the timing of energy-intensive manufacturing processes so they don't occur during peak hours. 

Because peak demand is generally predictable, you can automate energy management in your facility. Your demand response program administrator can establish pre-determined energy usage reductions and allow you to control these through your computer.

In most demand response programs, your program administrator pays you at set intervals for committing to reduce energy use during peak hours. If your energy provider experiences an especially high spike in demand—due to extremely hot weather, for example—it may call on you to curtail your usage and pay you an additional sum for doing so. 

Monitor, Control and Save

Monitor, Control & Save

Demand response is just one way you can save energy and money using demand side energy management strategies. You can also take advantage of wireless electricity monitoring technologies, which allow you to monitor and control the energy used by individual devices in your facility. 

How do these technologies work? A provider installs small, wireless sensors on the wires that feed each device in your facility. These allow you to monitor through your computer how much energy each device uses in real time. You can also place controls on each device’s energy use; for example, you might create a program that turns on fans if the temperature of a room or device reaches a certain level. 

Wireless electricity monitoring opens the door to rich insights about your facility’s energy usage. You can then use this information to proactively lower your energy bills.  

For example, one building materials supplier installed wireless sensors on pumps, conveyors and crushers. The move improved system performance and increased productivity, saving the company more than $270,000 in annual operational expenses.ii 

Automate Control of Your HVAC Systems

Automate & Control HVAC Systems

Not only can you use wireless technology to control manufacturing equipment, but you can also take advantage of it to monitor, control and schedule HVAC systems in much the same manner.

Energy monitoring, control and automation systems could potentially reduce building energy use by 20 to 30 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).iii In spite of such potential, more than 90 percent of commercial buildings that are less than 50,000 square feet have little or no building automation, the DOE says.iv

With wireless sensors working in conjunction with specialized software, you can predict how much energy your HVAC systems will use; optimize how they use it; and reduce usage. You can do this without sacrificing any comfort in your facility because the software makes imperceptible changes to temperature and pressure in your HVAC system.v

These systems are capable of learning from how your building performs, adjust their programs and predict future energy use. You can also use such systems to react to changes in weather and energy pricing.

If you're concerned about maintaining control over your HVAC systems, bear in mind that building owners or managers are able to override the automation and make decisions about how HVAC systems will be managed. For example, you're able to designate ideal temperatures yourself if you prefer, rather than leaving it entirely to the automation system.


Get Much More with Less Using LED Lights

LED Lights


In addition to controlling your HVAC systems to save energy, you can focus on other energy-intensive parts of your business to implement demand side energy management programs.

Lighting and lighting control upgrades are among the first efficiency measures you should consider in your demand side energy management efforts. That’s because the many new lighting technologies now available reap big savings while improving the look and feel of your work environment. In fact, LED lights can save up to 75 percent on lighting energy, says the Energy Trust of Oregon, which funds such upgrades in the

A few years ago, LEDs were a new technology still being refined and developed. Today, they provide attractive lighting at extremely low costs. LEDs can last up to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs and five times longer than compact fluorescent bulbs.vii What’s more, many states offer incentives for businesses to switch over to LED bulbs.viii

In your efforts to do more with less, you should also focus on motors. For example, a number of energy-efficient motors are now available and are said to be up to 66 percent more efficient. The DOE is now testing “smart” motors at a number of sites.ix Generally, the efficient motors are most effective in HVAC and refrigeration applications, but can be used elsewhere, as well. 

As you explore demand side energy management opportunities, think of your facility as a “virtual” power plant that contains hidden kilowatt-hour savings just waiting to be discovered and unlocked in the form of demand side energy management. Once you start saving energy, you’ll have an opportuning to lower energy bills, freeing up cash for other business opportunities or infrastructure improvements. You may also help move your company closer to meeting its sustainability goals. Doing more with less, energy-wise, benefits you, your energy provider, ratepayers and the environment.

Take the Next Step

Take the Next Step

Wondering where to begin with demand side energy management? Direct Energy Business can help you reduce your demand so you can buy less of what we sell. Our Total Energy Management approach can help lower energy costs with wireless electricity monitoring, demand response and energy efficiency, including:

To learn more about Direct Energy Business and how we can help you buy less of what we sell, visit our Energy Management Solutions page.

[i] American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, "Industrial Efficiency Programs Can Achieve Large Energy Savings at Low Cost," page 1, retrieved February 2016

[iii] U.S. Department of Energy, “Low-Cost Wireless Sensors for Building Applications,” retrieved February 2016

[iv] Ibid.

[v] BuildingIQ, "Predictive Energy Optimization," retrieved February 2016

[vi] Energy Trust of Oregon, “LED Lighting Puts Your Business in a Better Light,” retrieved February 2016

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid.


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