Electricity Submeters Enhance Sustainability

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Substantial Reductions in Energy Use Possible

Advanced submeter technology is poised to play a major role in analyzing energy usage and helping commercial and industrial organizations use energy more efficiently, ultimately reducing energy costs by a substantial margin. Submeter use has evolved over the years as its functionality has expanded beyond industrial applications into landlord sub-billing of tenants, with the total market in these areas expect to hit $2 billion by 2022. A completely new generation of submeter technology is now coming onto the market that is dramatically lower in cost, so much so that it can be economically deployed at the circuit level. Combined with “real time” communication and high powered, cloud-based big data energy analytics, this new technology has the ability to break down energy usage and identify where and when energy is wasted. With this capability, overhead energy costs that could never before be economically assessed, can now be broken down into granular elements of electrical data, for any specific time, circuit by circuit.

Industrial plants, commercial buildings, high density residential buildings and institutions with portfolios of buildings and facilities, can all take advantage of this new technology. Using accurate, real-time electrical information, the performance of pumps, compressors, heaters, chillers, conveyors, etc., and, in fact, all electrically powered equipment, can be evaluated. Installing advanced submeters integrated with energy analytics software, can enable managers to gain insights into deteriorating or problematic equipment. Real time email notification that a particular load has increased beyond a pre-set threshold can provide the information necessary to catch issues as they arise, and avoid long periods of high energy usage that could continue for months or even years. With vital data in hand, energy managers can understand their energy usage, power factor and demand peaks, and develop cost-saving practices and solutions never possible when the data simply wasn’t “visible”. This level of information is also useful in terms of internal accounting, as submeter data can be used to track and allocate energy consumption costs across departments and/or manufacturing lines, generating energy costs per unit of production output, and reporting on energy footprints for each specific piece of equipment.

Widely deployed, circuit level submeters are particularly useful for measurement and verification of energy retrofit initiatives. Since they can now be economically installed to cover virtually all equipment and generate granular data, projects such as LED lighting retrofits can be baselined ahead of time and then have their payback specifically measured, making it easier to justify similar projects elsewhere in a portfolio.

Submeters generating granular data are useful for raising awareness of both electrical consumption and the associated carbon footprint by tracking and displaying kilowatt-hours used, real-time kilowatt demand and hourly CO2 emissions. With software that can quantify total electrical energy cost to date for individual or groups of circuits, such as a production line or a specific area of a building, it is now possible to translate this data into carbon equivalents, saving administrative and support time, a requirement that will be increasingly common as carbon pricing laws become more widespread.

Despite the advances being made on the technology side, and estimates about the vast magnitude of energy wasted and potential cost reductions, the use of big data and predictive analytics is in its early days. Requests to integrate this new submetering technology with outdated legacy systems, capital investment restrictions and a lack of familiarity with the technology, can all be expected to slow adoption in the short term. At the same time, there are compelling factors that may accelerate the process. Shareholder pressure to reduce carbon footprints, government carbon pricing mechanisms, corporate policies to advance corporate sustainability responsibility mandates, and customer groups that increasingly communicate their preference for “clean” suppliers through their purchasing power, will all lead to progress in this area. More and more, companies are discovering that lowering carbon coincides with opportunities to reduce operating costs and improve profitability.

In the case of companies in the energy retail, facility and energy management sectors, the prevention of customer churn is a major issue. Social media provides insights into the extent of consumer dissatisfaction with current price levels and customer service. Moreover, electrical utilities continue to face pressure from grid regulators to make progress in reducing peak demand. Extensive use of submeter technology, combined with powerful energy analytics, has the potential to make contributions to the bottom line of both the end user and the local distribution company, as overall energy use and peak demand decline.

One company is leading the way in this area. A privately held Canadian firm, CircuitMeter Inc., has developed advanced electrical energy submeter technology that includes integrated big data energy analytics. Its “CircuitMonitoring” platform features high speed, cloud based software, and is designed to analyze entire portfolios of buildings and facilities in real time, taking into account detailed energy usage, and enabling energy users to better manage their energy consumption and reduce their costs. The cost of CircuitMeter technology is a fraction of the cost of other submetering technologies, while also offering the high power energy analytics that can let facility managers capture data related to energy usage from every circuit in an electrical panel or Motor Control Centre (MCC) within the building.

CircuitMeter’s monitoring software is designed as enterprise software that encompasses both its own cloud based energy management platform and dashboard, as well as an Application Program Interface (API) that allows its data to be accessed by other users’ energy information and control systems. By providing building operators with a circuit-by-circuit view of their electrical usage and trends, as well as notifications of trends and anomalies, CircuitMeter can identify where equipment is operating when should not (either operating “by mistake” i.e. heating systems working in the summer, or is not needed i.e. lights turned on after people have left an office). Historical and real-time detailed analysis through the use of visual dashboards and reports gives facility managers the ability to receive their energy information at an enterprise level and at the individual circuit level within a facility.

The significance of CircuitMeter’s technology developments in the sustainability world has been recently acknowledged on a number of fronts. In September 2015, CircuitMeter Inc. was named a recipient of one of Canada’s 2016 Clean50 awards that annually recognize national leaders in sustainability. CircuitMeter’s leading edge technology has also been validated by Cisco, a worldwide IT leader, which selected CircuitMeter to collaborate on submetering technology innovation at Cisco’s North American Innovation Centre in Toronto, a forum it created for industry collaboration on transformative innovation initiatives related to sustainable cities and buildings. More and more, utilities and non-governmental industry groups are looking for solutions in this area, and leaders such as London Hydro and the Pembina Institute have announced projects using CircuitMeter, all with the intention of focusing on the potential for reducing energy use, lowering carbon and saving money by attacking day-to-day energy operating costs.