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The challenges of reducing energy
(written for Energy in Buildings & Industry)

Sourcing, installing and measuring the performance of energy efficiency technologies can be a complex process. David Bakst, Operations Director at Sabien Technology outlines the key things to do well in order to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions.


The majority of organisations we speak to are looking for proven solutions to fast-track their reductions in CO2 emissions and energy consumption. And very often the energy manager will be responsible for identifying such opportunities, evaluating potential solutions, managing roll out, validating results and reporting back to senior management. All of which brings potential complexities and pitfalls.

As a company that has built its reputation in project managing the installation of its own patented energy efficiency technology, M2G, we have accumulated considerable knowledge and experience of running nationwide multi-site installation programs. While our methodology and approach is specific to our technology, the underlying philosophy, I believe, can be adopted for other technology roll out projects.

In fact, energy monitoring and targeting specialist Vilnis Vesma also advocates the methodology that we have developed for our projects, as he explains: “If you are trying to prove the savings you have achieved through an energy project, the question you have to answer is simply this: how much am I now using, compared with what I would have used in the absence of the project?”

In the case of a heating system, for example, this approach requires a methodology that takes account of both day-to-day variation in ambient temperatures and any variation in demand resulting from activities in the building. How to achieve this is discussed in more detail later on, but it’s important to take such projects step-by-step.

So, before you get started, you need to base-line your energy consumption and understand how much energy you are consuming. With the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) coming into force in April 2010, it’s vital that CRC-qualifying organisations can accurately calculate and report on their CO2 emissions. This then starts to identify potential ‘quick win’ solutions (behavioural or technical), with proven fast paybacks (usually within two years).

Having identified the areas of focus it’s now necessary to identify potential solutions, perhaps by talking to peers at networking events – which also helps to build a picture of potential suppliers. It’s also useful to understand how each product applies itself to your specific set of issues, ideally backed by third party client references. Suppliers should also provide a forecast on the level of savings that can be expected, bearing any variables in mind.

Another important issue is to ensure that any such works will not impact on comfort conditions in the building(s).

Meaningful measurements

Evaluating the success of any such project depends on the amount of energy reduced and the payback period; measuring this is complex. Automatic meter reading (AMR), for example, will measure the total volume of energy being consumed by the building or site but not the energy consumed by individual items of plant.

Installing sub-metering is one solution to verifying energy consumption at plant level, but it is expensive to implement. To overcome this approach, we have developed a ‘toggling’ technique for our specific technology that switches between running the M2G one day and then bypassing it the next, usually over a period of one month. The result is a comparison of ‘with and without’ an energy saving device – thus taking account of demand variations within the building. This general principle can also be applied to many other types of energy-saving project.

However, as noted earlier, in the case of any heating system there will still be temperature variation from one day to the next, so these figures need to be adjusted by using degree day analysis, which helps account for the effects of weather on energy consumption. Where more precise evaluation is required, degree days for the region can be replaced by an onsite temperature data-logger.

In addition, the changes in energy consumption over longer periods of time (pre, during and post project) can be established by CUSUM (cumulative sum) analysis, a Carbon Trust-approved tool that examines trends for sequential events, such as energy consumption, over time.

In parallel with accurate measurement, it’s important to ensure that energy reduction initiatives are carried out one at a time. If there are two projects running simultaneously for the same energy source, for instance, it will be virtually impossible to determine which is responsible for the results by using CUSUM.

Similarly, it’s important to be aware of other changes in the building that could impact the results. These include changes in the occupancy and occupant behaviour, changes to the building fabric, plant failure, changes to equipment configuration and, surprisingly, disablement of the new energy saving device by others who may not have been privy to the programme in the first place.

I can’t emphasise just how important it is to include all stakeholders in the process. They’ll appreciate your consultation, respect you for doing so and it will go a long way to helping you achieve technology adoption throughout your chain of influence.

Smooth implementation

We have also recognised that, with the current focus on energy efficiency, most energy managers aren’t short of things to do and we believe there is an onus on the technology supplier to manage as much of the project as is possible. In a recently completed estate wide roll-out of M2G at AVIVA, for example we managed the project from start to finish. The client simply provided us with details of the relevant site contacts and we took it from there, ensuring every stakeholder was briefed on the project and our terms of reference of the same.

The majority of the factors mentioned here will apply to most energy savings projects and, in our experience, addressing each of these issues in advance will help to ensure a smooth implementation and the most cost-effective solutions. As well as AVIVA, this methodology has proved effective in projects with Communities & Local Government, , Jones Lang LaSalle, Serco, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Nottingham City Council,O2 and many more.

www.sabien-tech.co.uk

 

 

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