There are so many things to consider in energy management; from specific actions to improve energy efficiency, to Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and procurement strategies. Although all of them are important and should be taken into account, there is one element that is paramount for a successful energy management strategy: energy measurement.
We can take many actions to improve our energy efficiency, but without the capacity to measure the results, we would never be able to know if we are in the right path. Measurement should be one of the first steps before starting working with energy efficiency. By doing that, we will know where we are in terms of energy consumption and will be capable of tracking and monitoring its evolution.
Implementing an effective energy measurement strategy could be difficult, especially in old facilities where the energy installation and distribution networks aren’t optimised to provide measurement capability. To be able to monitor our consumption effectively we should divide our measurement strategy in two groups: permanent measurement and access points for casual energy monitoring.
The basis of our permanent measurement system should be the overall consumption for the whole facility. It is important to have a clear picture about our total energy consumption. Sometimes we can use the measuring devices from energy companies to get this information. However, it is a good practice to have it also sectorised, especially if our company has areas with different energy needs. For example, in an automotive company, the largest energy consumer is the paintshop, followed by the body plant and lastly the assembly plant. If we only measure the total consumption, the reductions and improvements in the lower consumers won’t be evident enough and they will be difficult to track; to sort this out, it is better to measure and track the consumption separately.
When we plan our general measurement strategy, we can make the decision to allocate a permanent measuring device to measure the major consumers regularly. However, other times we only need to record the consumption of a machine or production line for a limited period of time; in this situation it’s not worth having such dedicated equipment on a permanent basis. For these cases rather than installing permanent measuring devices we can provide easy access to portable device in order to measure the consumption.
I will address the energy management policies topic in a future article. Meanwhile, here are some points related exclusively to energy measurement that are worth considering:
- When we talk about energy measurement we should include at least electricity and natural gas, but we should also monitor water (although is not an energy, it is usually part of our overall green strategy), compressed air, heat and cooling, that sometimes can be measured indirectly at the point of generation.
- Measure and monitor the consumption of the whole company and also the main areas separately, especially if the difference in their energy demand is high.
- Keep track of your energy consumption and put your historical data in a graph to monitor its evolution, especially after starting implementing energy improvement actions.
- When your budget is limited and you want to make sectorised measurements in your facility, if you are already measuring the total amount of energy, you can install one less measuring device and get the remaining area consumption by subtracting all the partial measurements from the total.
- When you track your consumption regularly, you can detect drastic changes, identify the causes and act promptly to fix the problems.
- When building new facilities, keep the energy networks sectorised. If it’s not worth installing a permanent measuring device, make sure to provide an accessible point of measurement
- It is a good practice to set up the company policy regarding energy measurement. Establish a specific power limit so all consumers above that value will have fixed energy measurement devices.
- If you have a limited budget to spend in your measuring strategy, you can track your consumption at a general level (maybe installing permanent measuring devices only for the complete plant and a few critical sectors). Measuring devices can be expensive, especially if we need ones with especial capabilities like real time recording. A good approach for this could be hiring a company that provides this kind of services. They are usually affordable and if we use this resource smartly, it can be really cost effective.
All in all, it is important to measure and monitor our energy consumption. If we want to take our energy efficiency seriously we need to quantify and validate every improvement we made to be sure that we are getting the expected results. Furthermore, it is crucial to keep all the improvements sustainable over time.