When it comes to selecting an EIS (Energy Information System), today’s corporate decision makers are spoiled for choice, given the numerous competing solutions available in the market. However, boundless choice can be a sure-fire recipe for decision paralysis. Vetting a range of solutions that all tend to sound similar is no easy task, for an already over-burdened energy manager.
Lawrence Berkley National Labs (LBNL) recently released a comprehensive study on the use, cost, and energy benefits of energy information systems. According to their definition, an EIS is, “the web-based software, data acquisition hardware, and communication system used to store, analyse, and display building energy data.”
The study included an analysis of 26 organizations which had implemented an EIS. The median savings across individual sites and entire portfolios was 17% and 8% respectively.
Given that an EIS or energy management platform is an “enabling” process-oriented tool vs. a widget or device that directly saves energy—quantifying its ROI is tricky. It is difficult to separate the benefits of an EIS from the benefits of other concurrent energy projects and activities. Despite these ROI hurdles, 90% of survey respondents in the study said the EIS was a critical component of their energy cost reduction efforts and that the performance levels achieved would not have been possible without the EIS in place.
The study highlights three primary ways in which an EIS helps organizations save energy and reduce cost. Evaluating candidate platforms against the following three key criteria can help make your software platform shortlist even shorter:
1. Operational Efficiency: An EIS provides visibility into energy performance, and insight into instances of energy waste that can be eliminated through low- or no-cost measures such as scheduling, commissioning, and occupant or operator practices.
Questions to consider:
- Beyond basic alarm and push reporting functionality, does the platform make exploring trend data a delightful experience (not unlike exploring a neighborhood on Google Earth)? Is it easy to add additional days to a today vs. yesterday view? Can you scroll through multiple years of data with a simple click-and-drag?
- Once a low- and no-cost opportunity has been identified, to what extent does the platform aid in the “enabling” aspect of an EIS? Does the platform provide a work-flow management tool to record and track identified energy projects? Does the platform provide integration between the graphics and the project tracking for crystal clear visibility into the effects projects have on energy performance? Does the platform help in driving action and getting things done?
2. Measure Identification: An EIS may be used to identify and justify capital improvement opportunities that increase energy efficiency.
Questions to consider:
- Beyond basic historic and comparison graphs, does the platform offer enhanced reporting capabilities and data visualization functionality to help identify opportunities? Does it offer heat maps and KPI comparisons across multiple sites in a portfolio?
- Can the platform handle time-of-day rate schedules? Seeing your cost-of-use overlaid with your use patterns reveals ways to better manage how and when energy is consumed.
- Is the platform vendor capable of providing additional energy services beyond software, in order to further enable cost savings? Can they offer opportunity identification assistance, project economic analysis, staff training, and energy coaching?
3. Persistence of Savings: An EIS can be used to ensure that energy performance improvements and efficiency gains are maintained over time.
Questions to consider:
- Beyond simple KPI target setting, is the platform capable of employing an accurate baseline model to ensure that high production levels or weather conditions do not mask true energy performance? Can the platform provide clear visualization of savings achieved to date?
- Does the platform also provide means to store and manage all energy project documentation, operations and maintenance opportunities in detail, and energy-using equipment set-point recommendations to ensure institutionalization of energy efficiency practices? Effective documentation is essential to a successful energy management program. You don’t want your energy program to lose steam because of employee turnover and a lack of shared historical data.
The above questions should help you hone in on the platform that will fit your needs. If you can answer “YES” to the majority of the questions posed, then you are likely headed down the right path.