Maximize energy performance and savings with an energy management information system

April 28, 2016

For designers, it is not merely enough to build an energy-efficient building – they must be able to prove it is as efficient in practice as they planned it to be during the design phase. For building operators, it's not enough just to have green technology installed on their sites, they have to optimize their energy savings in order to get the most out of their investment. To accomplish these goals, parties at all phases of the energy-efficient building process can take advantage of Energy Management Information Systems.

Energy Management Information Systems 
EMIS are comprised of several parts: the sensors and instruments required to collect energy efficiency data, the data infrastructure and software tools necessary to turn that data into actionable insights and the management structure to see those actions are carried out effectively. 

According to the Office of Energy Efficiency of Natural Resources Canada, EMIS are best thought of not as independent to a building's other functions, but as integrated with them.

The Office's publication on EMIS states: "Energy use efficiency is only one aspect of process (and business) performance and should be considered in conjunction with other business objectives such as output, yield, quality, reliability, environment and profit." 

This dynamic, multidisciplinary approach is what makes the best energy management information systems so valuable. 

Improving performance 
Armed with intuitive software and data acquisition hardware, and situated properly in an organization, EMIS can have a dramatic impact on companies hoping to improve their energy efficiency savings.

According to a Department of Energy survey of 26 industry leaders, EMIS offer the following energy-saving benefits:

  • Identifying efficiency opportunities.
  • Tracking and comparing performance.
  • Managing demand charges.
  • Validating utility billing.
  • Measuring and verifying project-specific savings.
  • Providing information to ground and setting energy goals.

"91 percent of users attribute their increase in performance to energy management software."

Together, these individual benefits can have a massive impact. According to the DOE survey, sites that have EMIS installed experience median savings of 17 percent. What's more, 91 percent of users say they wouldn't have been able to achieve this level of performance without the assistance of energy system software.

Driving savings 
Traditionally, this evaluation process has been expensive and time consuming. As a result, evaluation measurement and verification took up a significant portion of the budget for energy efficiency projects, says the Lawrence Berkeley National Library. In recent years, however, technological advancements have brought new solutions to market that help make them more affordable.  According to the DOE study, after a median investment of $0.06 per square foot, 3 out of 4 companies were able to pay for their systems in two years or less. This speaks to not only the power of software and automation to bring down the cost of these programs, but also to their efficacy, as they pay for themselves incredibly quickly. 

Maximizing results
In their study of industry leaders leveraging EMIS to drive down their energy costs, the DOE identified several best practices that were consistently associated alongside maximum savings:

  • Installing submetering to improve granularity.
  • Performing regular load profiling.
  • Automating anomaly detection.
  • Monitoring peak load.

Whichever methods they prioritized, the study concluded, using the system consistently over a longer period gave the companies an opportunity to realize even deeper savings. 

The bottom line
From managing new construction to optimizing an existing facility, energy management information systems can help a range of stakeholders track and improve their organization's energy performance. Pairing the powerful data collection hardware and analysis software of a well-designed EMIS with emerging best practices can produce energy savings that pay for themselves quickly. As such, EMIS are a compelling option for companies at various stages in their growth.