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If It Is A Question of Metering, The Answer Should Be “Yes”

EHSQ Alliance Affiliate

This post provides insight into how metering relates to energy management and Industry 4.0. 

By George Belich and Tim Grosse of the e Squared Energy Advisors network.

INTRODUCTION

As we enter 2019, companies are looking toward a future of automation, data collection and monitoring, and sustainability. When considering Industry 4.0 in the energy management context, metering data is the center of energy management and efficiency processes. 

Metering is also at the center of control, building management, billing, costing, and many other areas that relate to sustainability. Meters feed information to multiple levels throughout the organization, including energy managers, facility managers, and engineering. Indeed, meters, with the capability of collecting and sorting data on energy and facility performance, are a logical starting point for sustainable best practices.   

The Internet of Things (IoT) is also reshaping metering. The process of smart metering is important, and we should view metering as a system component that is part of the overall integrated solution. But we must be clear that the value of smart metering is defined by the quality of the installation, the configuration of the measuring device, and the quality of the action performed based on the analytics from the data provided. For instance, look at the diagram made up of concentric circles below. What do you see?

 

Description: As metering technologies evolve, the users and systems supporting the data expand. Metering is no longer used just to check the utility, cost allocation, or general asset after the fact; it now supports internal building/plant operations on an ongoing basis. Actionable decisions can be made more frequently to support savings objectives, utility market participation objectives, and most of all, creature (human) comfort and safety objectives.

THE CENTER OF ALL FACILITY PERFORMANCE IS METERING

How can we define metering? Metering is measuring an analytical quantity in predetermined intervals of time where the usage, rate of use, and operational quantities can be used to measure the performance of an asset or building in multiple ways.

Facilities can become their own utility and can go beyond the standard electric, gas, and water metering. There are many variables that meters can measure including:

  • Electric/gas/water for shadowing the utility or for large assets or tenants
  • Steam, condensate return, chilled water for cooling and heating optimization
  • Oil/gas/diesel
  • Environmental controls
    • dewpoint
    • temperature
    • humidity
    • CO2
  • Operational control
    • startups
    • runtime
  • Cycles
    • air flow/pressure

 
BARRIERS TO GETTING STARTED WITH METERS AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM  

Perhaps you’ve championed the idea of using meters for your business processes but have encountered resistance. Perhaps you are considering using meters for the first time, but want to know more about the barriers to implementation. Here is a summary of common barriers and how you can overcome them.

1. Capital costs

The initial investment of metering has come down dramatically over the last decade. More suppliers, newer technologies such as split core CTs (Current Transformers used for measuring amperage), and clamp-on devices are lowering the up-front cost of investment. These devices for sensing and measuring are now more compact and efficiently built, which allows for quicker ROIs and more data points. Also, there is now more funding available to allow smart-budgeting across departments, rebate offers from utilities, and requirements and incentives for businesses to show that new equipment is more efficient than the previous equipment.

2. Installation and maintenance costs

Proper installation has a cost. If a shutdown is required, then costs go up even further due to loss of production or off-hour labor. Consider whether to use in-house personnel (if they are capable of doing the installation) or whether the service needs to be outsourced and budget appropriately. You may need to use the meter vendor to support this. 

Meter maintenance is also an issue. Utilities are required to recalibrate and check metering sites in addition to fixing those that are not providing data. This must now be done on the other side of the utility meters for all the sub-meters in a facility. 

Some of these costs can be shared with other people who use the data. For instance, you may have an accountant who wants to verify the correct charge of utility bills, a facility manager who wants to know what and why something is running overnight, or a utility or energy manager who wants to know if a new rooftop unit is running according to the vendor specifications.

Your IT (information technology) department can also help lower the costs by testing and approving wireless devices that allow for more efficient acquisition of the data.

3. System costs

Today, meters have some form of communication capability. They can be wired directly to a smart-box that can talk to, count from, and then connect to the local Ethernet or to a wireless network. This integration and pulling of the data from the meter to the designated database is a one-time cost and should be specified in detail to define what metering parameters and controls you need to have. Keep in mind that you will need technical resources for installation and system connectivity. Consider assembling a team to install, commission, and integrate the meter into the building and business process. 

4. Knowing which one to use

There are many meter manufacturers in the market providing similar functionality, but they all have something that makes them unique. First, think through the purpose of the meter data and who will need access to it. Second, think about any future actions that may be required of this meter such as Demand Response, Energy/Tenant Star, or sustainability reporting. Then select the meters or create a request for information. Some basic things to consider should be:

Price – You need to make sure the functionality and data requirements are there, but that you do not pay for more than you need. 

Support – The meter vendor’s commitment and knowledge are critical. Look to see if there are online support, blogs, FAQs, and other media to answer your questions. 

Warranty – The warranty period should be between 3-5 years for electrical. It may vary more for gas, water, and other flow-type meters. 

Integration – There must be flexibility with the IT, BMS (building management system), or service provider. If your meters are being used by your building management system, then they should integrate easily into the system with minimal work by the BMS team. 

Accuracy – This should be an issue not only for internal billing (tenant and others), but also for utility participation programs such as Demand Response, peak shaving, and more. Beyond these applications, most meters will work fine where plus or minus 1% is a good guideline.

Additional loads – Most smart meters or loggers have digital and analog inputs or outputs. Consider all meters within a reasonable vicinity when installing a meter. These inputs can be gas, water, or older electric meters. Also, the meter may have to provide additional outputs beyond the communication protocols where a digital or analog output may be required by a BMS or SCADA system device. 

WHY YOU SHOULD METER

1. Help with audit preparedness and Monitoring And Verification (M&V)

Energy audits should be performed every 3-5 years based on building and asset changes or operational changes. As a result of an energy audit, you may replace a piece of equipment, adjust a controlled operation, or implement ECM (Energy Change Modification) in your BMS. To prove the savings, you will need to perform a verification based on historical and current data in order to show success or failure of the system. Using the information you get from a failure, you can make the necessary adjustments and start the M&V (Measurement and Verification) process again. If the verification proves that the system is successful, the meter will continue to provide the ability to continuously commission the change and eliminate any drift or reoccurrence. It is important to maintain your savings, which you can use to pay for some of the metering.

Information is golden, not just for you but for other departments. Metering can provide the ability or capacity to act effectively in making and maintaining changes. You need to think about all the active meter data participants for this installation. 

2. Engage employees

Everybody can be an energy manager if they can visualize the metering data. Allowing non-energy managers to support efficiency by seeing what their roles are can become a powerful tool in the whole process. 

3. Assist with cost allocation and budgeting

Dollars and cents are the real reasons to invest in any business operations. Metering can provide the ability to allocate internal costs which can lead to conscious cost-saving behaviors in departments. 

4. Check your utility for billing and rate confirmation

Many energy users who are conscious of their bills don't know if the utility is charging them correctly. Most rates are pretty simple, but with the deregulation of electricity and gas, there are now multiple bills and suppliers to check on. Meters allow for a sanity check against the bills to confirm total usage and demand. The meter must be capable of logging interval data or providing that data to a logging device, since some bills are based on the time of day and you may not be able to view them in real time.

5. Improve your Energy Star or other building performance measurement score

There are many cities across the US that have implemented either mandatory or suggested participation in utility usage. By using the Energy Star Portfolio manager, the score is then available for public access. Although this requirement is yearly and only requires the data off of utility bills, the best way to start improving your score is by metering. CBECS is another building scorecard you can use. 

6. Comply with mandatory sub-metering requirements

At some point in the future, sub-metering may be mandatory. How many will follow New York Local Law 88? Investing in the future by starting now may be viable. 

YOU CAN’T MANAGE WHAT YOU DON’T MEASURE

This old-but-true adage has been the initial driver to metering because everyone can understand this concept. ‘Guest-a-mation’ is no longer acceptable. Technology is more cost-effective and IoT makes metering available to a broader range of personnel.

WILL YOU GET A PAYBACK?

You don't always know. Your Energy Star score can show you that you need more detail. In conjunction with an energy audit, the detail from the meters can show what needs to change to improve your score. If this is done as part of an ECM, it may be factored into the cost of the ECM as part of the M&V. Analyzing and reviewing your data could produce savings in the range of 5% to 15%.

WHAT INFORMATION YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR FROM THE METER

Meters are capable of providing and storing an inordinate amount of data. How do you determine what data is required? Who are users of the energy and engineering data?  Facilities, Accounting, Sustainability, and Engineering can all contribute to this decision. Metering can provide the ability or capacity to act effectively in making and maintaining changes. You need to think about all the active meter data participants for this installation. 

APPLICATIONS OF METERING IN DIFFERENT INDUSTRIES

CONCLUSION

Advances in metering technology can be powerful and cost effective. Meters provide more than just the standard utility information by expanding into the environment both inside and outside a facility, tracking facility controls, and providing real-time data integrations. Yes, there are hurdles and challenges to overcome, but keep in mind that it is not necessary to meter every aspect of your business. Metering something is the first step to the journey of big data, analytics, and operational improvements. A simple kiosk dashboard can engage the building occupants within the corporation and demonstrate a proactive philosophy outside of the corporation.

If you do not know where to start, take a blank sheet of paper and write down what you think are the critical parameters for operating your facility (those that you can take action on). Next, determine how frequently you will be able to review the parameters and data points you have received, and take action. By doing so, you have just defined your metering requirements and started the journey toward Industry 4.0.

George Belich Biography: 

Mr. Belich is a member of the e2 Energy Advisors network and has more than 35 years of experience in the energy industry in various capacities such as a software engineer, systems integrator, hardware developer, product manager and a business owner. Mr. Belich has a strong technical background in smart grid, energy management, utility metering, data communications, systems integration, database management and metering problem solving. Mr.Belich has worked with wide variety energy users from multi-site retail, healthcare, universities, manufacturing and industrials; including Wal-Mart and the Los Angeles Unified School District providing software, energy, and metering system solutions.

Tim Grosse Biography: Mr. Grosse has more than 30 years of expertise in market leadership initiatives within energy services, healthcare, and financial services in mid-market to Fortune 50 enterprises. Mr. Grosse’s launch of e2 Energy Advisors provides world-class energy management services for premier energy users worldwide meeting some of today’s most significant global economic and environmental challenges. Mr. Grosse may be reached at timgrosse@esquaredenergyadvisors.com or by phone at 469-888-4111.

About e2 Energy Advisors: e2 Energy Advisors is a strategic partnership bringing together the top energy management companies, engineers, previous utility industry executives, and some of the largest energy wholesale and retail energy market makers across a wide industry spectrum. e2 Energy Advisors offers a full range of energy management strategies for the commercial, industrial, and municipal energy users. Our services reduce energy costs, increase energy efficiency, and generate positive cash flow. Our advisor group reduces the carbon footprint of tens of thousands of entities on a daily basis.

For more information contact: info@esquaredenergyadvisors.com or call 469-888-4111

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January 30, 2019 @ 09:39 AM EST Environment, Health & Safety, Operations, Quality

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