We the People … Can Save Energy

 

When we started thinking about building an energy management information system (EMIS) it wasn’t the act of building a software product that spurred our interest, it was the people using it.

We believe that, at its heart, industrial energy management is about people. And that a great EMIS should be built around supporting people with information, education, and motivation.

When we built SENSEI we had in mind that it would function as an information hub that would give people:

  • The ability to manage performance and cost
  • The opportunity to track progress with cause and effect visibility
  • A place to record or upload all manner of program or project documentation

We wanted SENSEI to be a place of collaboration, where people can learn by:

  • Recording or resourcing ideas and drawing inspiration
  • Tracking action item lists
  • Offering suggestions or help

And then we wanted our platform to be a place for motivation that would offer:

  • Benchmarking capability for a single facility, or between multiple sites across an enterprise
  • Potential for inspiring friendly competition between facilities or DSM program cohorts
  • Clear links between actions taken and savings achieved

Operators, engineers, managers, energy champions, CEOs—everyone, at every level of a company, needs to have the right information and tools to effectively manage energy.

People want to know where to go for information; they want to understand what’s expected of them and to be able to connect actions to energy savings. When people can see positive results derived from their actions, then there’s a much better chance of engagement, and alignment across a single team and the entire company.

Industrial EMIS Minimum Elements: Does SENSEI Have What It Takes?

Utility demand-side management programs are increasingly interested in energy management information systems (EMIS). Why is that?  One leading indicator is the number of strategic energy management (SEM) programs being piloted across North America. At Cascade, we are familiar with around 20 current SEM programs and pilot programs, up from the single-digits just a few years ago.

With SEM programs comes the desire to measure savings over and above that which is achieved from SEM-implemented capital projects. The problem is that claiming SEM savings is probably the biggest barrier to deeper adoption of SEM today. One of the ways utilities are recognizing SEM savings today is through EMIS software.

SENSEI has proven an effective SEM software platform – with support from nine programs and counting. One of the many reasons for this is SENSEI’s ability to robustly track savings. In industrial, a custom-fit top-down energy model must be created in order to “measure” facility-wide energy savings from SEM. Accommodating these models is one threshold for an EMIS to pass muster in industrial and large commercial applications.

Last week I attended the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) Industry Partners Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. There, the Industrial SEM committee discussed minimum elements required for industrial EMIS. I was honored to sit on the panel discussing EMIS in this context.

Framing the issue was a recently released study on industrial EMIS commissioned by NEEA (Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance). This study looked at 43 EMIS systems, narrowing the field down to six qualified candidates. The study is definitely worth a read, for anyone interested in industrial EMIS. The study outlined minimum requirements, and these requirements were in alignment with CEE’s draft minimal elements document. We all had the chance to consider what makes an EMIS successful. Here are some key takeaways.

The categories of value an EMIS should provide to SEM programs:

  1. Streamlined, lower cost tools for measurement and verification of savings
  2. Increased energy savings, and savings persistence from SEM
  3. Improved customer service and engagement
  4. Cost-effective scalability of SEM – to support more participants, over more time, at all facility sizes

During the discussion I suggested the scalability category – we have found it to be an important element that mature SEM programs see as critical to wide adoption of SEM practices. We’ll see if the broader group of CEE utility members agrees.

As EMIS meets these demands for programs, SEM will be easier to justify, and will be better prepared to pass muster with evaluators and regulators. This may lead to a wholesale rethinking of M&V. The SENSEI team and Cascade Energy are excited to see how this unfolds.