SENSEI Wins Environmental Leader Product of the Year Award!

environemental energy efficiency award

“The product scores in terms of the ease of use, adaptability (customizable) and the immediate results that it can deliver for customers,” says one of the Environmental Leader Product and Project Awards judges.

A panel of 20 judges reviewed Environmental Leader’s project and product nominations this year. One judge asserted that the competition was high and there were some tough choices to make. In spite of the stiff competition, SENSEI™ won in the product category.

SENSEI is Cascade Energy’s advanced energy software solution designed to drive continuous, cost-effective savings for industrial facilities worldwide. The platform does much more than merely monitor energy consumption. The only solution on the market that’s designed by industrial energy efficiency experts, SENSEI changes behavior by connecting people to energy information, actions to results, and energy-efficiency projects to measurable returns.

According to Environmental Leader’s review of SENSEI, another judge “complimented the product on its web-based capabilities, energy analytics, focus on industrial operations, and focus on the human factors, adding that it is especially good in its integration with existing MES software in manufacturing.”

SENSEI helps manage workflows by allowing users to tag, open, and close events, assign tasks to individuals and allow all stakeholders to communicate about events and issues. Unlike many tools on the market today, SENSEI is easy to use and can be up and running in a matter of weeks—not months. When compared to other energy software solutions, SENSEI is unique because it:
1. Accommodates all data streams: interval, monthly, utility bill, water/sewer, production, etc.

2. Displays energy performance data and events in a meaningful way so users can easily create and save the views they need.

3. Tracks true energy savings so end users can understand and communicate ROI.

4. Provides push reports and alarms that notify end-users when energy anomalies occur, so that immediate action can be taken.

SENSEI creates an energy intensity baseline based on sophisticated normalization equations (regression analysis) to account for changes in weather, production, operating schedules, etc. This baseline gives an industrial facility the power to accurately track all of their energy efficiency initiatives and render their energy stories visually.

The platform’s reporting options allow engineers to quickly view their facility’s baseline vs. actual performance, enter the maintenance actions taken, track current projects, as well as energy and cost savings to-date.

When industrial companies curb their energy spend and reduce operating expenses they free up capital to invest back into the company and its employees—thus increasing competitive edge and the ability to more quickly adapt to an ever-changing marketplace. SENSEI gives companies and their employees’ visibility to the direct effect their actions have on energy performance and dollars saved.

Case Study

In 2009 a Cascade Energy client, running a large food and beverage distribution enterprise, launched an initiative to reduce their energy costs and consumption. After working with Cascade the company reduced energy use overall, by more than 28%. Cascade introduced SENSEI and suggested that the new, cloud-based platform could help them be more effective at monitoring and understanding the impact of their energy improvements. The company was immediately interested, particularly so, because monitoring solutions they’d used in the past weren’t fully meeting their needs. With SENSEI, all of the clients’ sites can see and share data logs. Their operations staff has instant access to real-time information about energy-saving actions taken, and all stakeholders can view rich information revealing whether a change helps or hurts energy efficiency.

Energy Efficiency Made Visible

SENSEI Makes Energy Efficiency Visible

A recent article in Distributed Energy contends that if commercial and industrial buildings improved their energy efficiency by just 10%, “they could generate $20 billion in savings.”

The article, Innovations in Energy Management by Carol Brzozowski, goes on to talk about the importance of a corporate mindset shift that’s essential in order for industrial or commercial businesses to achieve consistent, ongoing energy savings, over many years. It discusses the considerable positive impact the latest energy software dashboards can have in supporting an effective energy management program. Cascade Energy’s energy-efficiency platform, SENSEI™, gets big props as a system that’s designed to not merely monitor energy, but to drive action and change behavior. Cascade’s VP, Dan Brown is quoted as saying, “The monitoring of energy use is used to track how you’re performing. But, then you have to find and implement O&M changes, such as get people to close dock doors on a refrigerated dock when they didn’t do that before. Very specific, tangible changes have to be made”—behavior-based changes.

While great strides are being made in the tools we use to support our energy management efforts, (certainly the SENSEI dev team is working hard to add new features every day) those tools really only function as effectively as the people who use them and the corporate structure that supports them.

To be truly effective an overall energy management program must establish a mindset and behavior shift. And, while that program will likely include metering hardware and a software dashboard that would help determine capital or O&M projects, it’s garnering company-wide commitment and collaboration that yields the strongest results.

Creating a foundation for energy management starts with establishing a framework for success–even before you begin taking specific energy-efficiency measures. So, how do you know if your company is ready to embark on energy management? Consider the following questions:

• Do you have executive support?
• Have you set specific goals?
• Have you assigned roles for an energy team or an Energy Champion?
• How will you establish accountability?
• What kind of budget and ROI criteria has been set?
• Are reporting mechanisms in place?
• What awards and affirmations will drive employee engagement?
• How will you handle employees who aren’t “on board” with the program?

Understanding what you’re doing well and what you need to work on will help build a solid foundation for a successful energy management program.

Although every facility is unique and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach, every company should take the time to lay the groundwork. Then, over the course of two-to-five years, the range and timing of program components, tools, dashboards, and projects should be tailored to meet your company’s specific requirements—which could very well turn that 10% savings into 12% to 15%. That’s energy efficiency you’ll not only see recorded in your dashboard reports, but also savings you’ll see on your monthly energy bills.

Achieve Double-Digit Savings With the Right Energy Information System

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.

Dan Brown Wins Forty Under 40 Award for Energy Software Innovation

We’re excited to announce that Cascade Energy Principal and VP of Products, Dan Brown, has won a Forty Under 40 award offered by the Portland Business Journal. The award is given to young professionals under the age of 40 who have excelled in their field, by showing tremendous leadership and committment to the community.

Dan is the guiding force behind SENSEI Cascade’s energy-efficiency web application designed to drive continuous, cost-effective savings for industrial facilities. SENSEI is the only energy management software solution on the market built by industrial energy-efficiency experts.

"Dan was Cascade’s first employee engineer, hired in 1998. He’s always had a passion for innovation with an eye to better serving our customers," says Cascade CEO, Marucs Wilcox. "SENSEI is the culmination of years of hard work, vision, and planning. We think SENSEI is the best energy management platform available, reflecting Dan’s ability to put himself in our customers’ shoes. We are very proud of SENSEI and very proud of Dan." 

Last year SENSEI won an "Innovation in Sustainability" award from the Portland Business Journal and Sustainable Business Oregon, in the "energy" category which considers the amount of energy saved and percentage of energy from renewable sources.

 "SENSEI is unique among energy monitoring software applications," says Mr. Brown, " because it does much more than merely monitor consumption. SENSEI helps change behavior by connecting people to energy information, actions to results and energy-efficiency projects to measurable returns."

The Portland Business Journal will honor Forty Under 40 award recipients at a lunch banquet on Thursday, February 13th, 2014 at The Nines Hotel, 525 SW Morrison St. Portland OR 97204, 6th Floor, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Find more information at:  http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/event/98591 and view the award recipients at http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/topic/40-under-40/.

SENSEI Wins Innovation in Sustainability Award

Sensei energy software success

We are want to share that we just won an Innovation in Sustainability award from the Portland Business Journal and Sustainable Business Oregon (SBO).

SENSEI won in the Energy category which considers the number of kilowatt hours of energy saved and percentage of energy from renewable sources. This is the fourth annual competition hosted by SBO and Portland Business Journal. In addition to Energy, other award categories include: water, waste, equity, food, natural environment, and transportation. Needless to say, we are very excited!

Sustainable Business Oregon hosts a bevy of industry events, and their mission is to create a platform for sharing ideas, discussing best practices and accelerating Oregon’s leadership in sustainable business by creating an organized, collaborative community. We’re really proud to be a part of that community.

We know that SENSEI is a game changer when it comes to driving continuous cost-effective savings for industrial facilities worldwide–and now others are beginning to recognize this (see how SENSEI compares to other platforms here.)  SENSEI is unique among energy software solutions because it does much more than merely monitor consumption—it helps change behavior by providing the kind of energy data people need to drive results. It’s also the only platform on the market that’s designed by industrial energy-efficiency experts.

To date the industrial complex has been under-served in terms of effective energy-management solutions because the energy industry continues to focus primarily on commercial and residential investments. In commercial buildings and homes energy savings typically results from implementing lighting and HVAC solutions. But industrial customers are faced with complex, interconnected systems that require constant monitoring and fine-tuning to maintain optimal performance levels.

When you consider that industrial facilities consume approximately 1/3 of the energy in the U.S., according to the Department of Energy, the potential for increasing efficiency in the sector is phenomenal.

SENSEI’s positive impact on the environment starts with helping industrial facilities get more productive use out of the energy they consume. When a company integrates energy optimization and efficiency into its core operations, it can be phenomenally successful at reducing both consumption and impact on the environment. SENSEI plays a pivotal role in this process by helping establish a clear picture of true energy performance and then providing a way for all stakeholders to easily communicate and work together to save more each year.

 

 

Release Notes – Version 2.6

Recently we launched our newest version of SENSEI. This latest upgrade, version 2.6, includes a range of new features, improvements, and fixes including:

  • Updates to Table Views in Explore— Formatting and data-range improvements Tables are now more useful than ever with. Remember, any saved view can be displayed as a table simply by clicking the “Table” button in the lower right area of the window.
  • Custom Reporting: Tableau software v.1 Integration—For the past few years Cascade has used Tableau software for custom analysis, such as building baseline models. It is an incredibly powerful and flexible data-visualization tool, and SENSEI’s custom reporting will now begin a steady migration to this platform. Release 2.6 is a milestone on the path towards integration. We can now schedule and push data exports to Tableau Server. If you’d like to learn more about Tableau, visit tableausoftware.com
  • Improved CSV Downloads—We’ve expanded the amount of data you can download with just one click – now, if you need years of data, you can get it in a flash.
  • Fine-Tuned Push Reports—Now you can receive regular reports via email with PDF attachments containing multiple saved views, and with a custom subject line and email body text. We will contact you soon to set this up. In the meantime, if you know which views you’d like to receive via email, just call your account manager.
  • Alarms and Notifications—Alarms and notifications have progressed substantially in version 2.6. We expect this feature to be ready next month. Alarms will appear on the graph and in SENSEI’s Manage tab. Alarm notifications will be sent via email or text (using your cell provider’s email-to-text capabilities).

REMEMBER! Before you start taking advantage of the new features, you’ll need to clear your cache. Don’t forget to bookmark energysensei.com and check your performance daily.

We are hard at work on the next release, version 2.7 involving some major back-end improvements. If you have feedback or suggestions on what you’d like to see in SENSEI, please email me directly: dan.brown@cascadeenergy.com. I would love to hear from you!

Dan Brown

VP Product Development,
Cascade Energy

Energy Efficiency Isn’t Always Easy for Industrial Companies

industrialenergyefficiency

Even though energy is one of the biggest expenses for industrial companies, pursuing energy efficiency projects to drive consumption and cost down isn’t necessarily a top priority. Stephen Lacey from greentechmedia recently sat down with Cascade CEO, Marcus Wilcox to explore the complexity behind the key factors that make industrial energy efficiency a challenging proposition. Read Lacey’s article to get a clear picture of Why Efficiency Is So Much Harder in Industrial Facilities Than in Commercial Buildings.

Top Industrial Energy Drivers: Which Ones Impact Your Facility?


Click to enlarge infographic.

Industrial Energy Drivers

When it comes to energy efficiency in an industrial setting, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of accomplishment with an unexpectedly lower-than-usual utility bill. A temporary reduction in costs might have you thinking, “I must have done something right last month.” In reality, you could be mistaken. In fact, you could be headed in the opposite direction.

Getting at a facility’s true energy performance—or its energy intensity—doesn’t have to be a mystery. The first step involves being able to identify your facility’s energy drivers.

What Are Energy Drivers?

Energy drivers are factors that can cause energy use to vary. They generally fall into two camps: Those you can and should manipulate and others you usually can’t or wouldn’t want to. For instance, you can’t control the weather and you likely wouldn’t slow production simply to save energy. But you can (and definitely would want to) determine the efficiency of the equipment you purchase, or recognize the positive influence of operations and maintenance (O&M) actions on the energy efficiency of the systems at your facility.

The point of identifying energy drivers is to remove the ones you typically can’t or wouldn’t want to control from your facility’s overall energy-use equation. In the grand scheme of things, this group of energy drivers blurs the true picture of energy consumption at your facility. All of the other drivers that you can and should control constitute the purview of energy efficiency.

Factoring out this first group of energy drivers from your facility’s energy data is done through sophisticated statistical regression analysis. Don’t worry; we’re not about to get stat crazy. Our objective for the remainder of the post is to help you understand which of the drivers you can’t control, are in play at your facility. As you identify them, you’ll be more prepared to pinpoint your facility’s true energy performance with the help of statistical modeling (and the data geeks that do the analysis). Gaining insight into your facility’s energy drivers won’t make you an expert in screening every potential variable, but an increased familiarity could help you save time and money in building a viable statistical model that accounts for them.

Common Industrial Energy Drivers

Rather than examine an extensive list of all possible hard-to-control energy drivers, we’ll focus on four we find most frequently in an industrial context: weather, production, schedule, and the quality of raw goods.

1. Weather:

Does your energy use vary seasonally (over the course of the year)?

You might guess that thermal systems work harder to heat in the winter, while refrigeration systems use more energy to keep product cool during the summer. If your facility’s industrial process requires maintaining the temperature of a space, product, process, or tool, then weather will play a hand in how much energy the facility consumes. In fact, the same driver is in play for human-occupied spaces when an HVAC system keeps office temperatures comfortable, in spite of the scorching summer sun.

Temperature plus humidity play a role in energy used for drying processes. Before a lumber mill finalizes its production of dimensional lumber, roughly cut wet timber is kiln-dried then run through a planer to achieve its final dimension. Colder, wet weather affects how much energy is required to dry the lumber.

And, wouldn’t you know it—inclement weather (read: rain and snow) in some climates even determines how much energy is used to process wastewater. Precipitation, snow accumulation, storm events, and saturated ground conditions can increase influent flow substantially during non-summer months or a monsoon season. The extra water in the system means more energy is required throughout the collection and treatment processes.

Ask Yourself: Is Weather an Energy Driver?

  • Check your utility bill history for a pattern of seasonal peaks and valleys—a strong indication that weather is an energy driver at your facility.

 

2. Production:

Does energy use vary based on long-term production volume? Does your facility have high re-work or scrap-work rates?

For all industrials, energy is simply a means to an end. You’ve got a product to make, and you need energy to do it. Your business is about converting raw materials into something that meets customer needs. Though every facility would love to slow the rate at which their meter spins, you certainly wouldn’t turn down orders for finished goods to do it.

But production as an energy driver isn’t just about volume or the rate at which product is moving down the a conveyor belt. Energy use per product will jump if the product doesn’t meet customer specifications after the initial run and must be reprocessed. In extreme cases, you can double the amount of energy that goes into a product by processing it again. More likely, you might have to repeat a portion of the process again. For example, food processors of seasonal frozen products are often at the mercy of the harvest. As a result, a facility could be up to its eyeballs in raw goods all at once. The pressure to process more quickly creates the potential for inadequately frozen products that need to be reprocessed. From an energy-per-finished-product standpoint, maintaining a proven production process is a more efficient approach.

Ask Yourself: Is Production an Energy Driver?

  • Do you have equipment that operates intermittently, with significant idle time? For example, do you ever have to fire up additional equipment at a certain capacity, or use a different process for a given product line? If the answer is “yes,” it will be easy to identify how your production process influences your energy data.
  • If your operation runs 24-7 with infrequent variance in production levels, it might be hard to detect a production influence. You may need to look at energy data over a much longer time horizon and compare a 12-month rolling average of production with energy use in order to determine any long-term trends.
  • Bonus Energy Tip: Re-work or scrap work is the bane of efficiency (based on the amount of energy used to produce one unit of finished goods). If your “do over” rates seem high or erratic, consider having staff or third-party experts take a second look at your facility’s process. You could save not only energy, but also time and money.

 

3. Schedule:

Does your energy use vary throughout the week?

Schedule has to do with the normal daily and weekly patterns of production activity at a facility. Because operators run equipment, the amount of energy consumed is typically tied to the number of employees on the floor. Whether you realize it or not, employees make energy efficiency decisions every day by powering up and keeping equipment running, or turning it off when it’s not needed.

If you have an office located within a facility that is closed while the facility operates over the weekend, you might notice that the energy per unit produced (energy intensity) decreases. Since no one occupies the office on Saturdays and Sundays, overall energy use at the facility drops. This doesn’t mean that firing your accounting staff will make you more energy efficient. (Try explaining the overdue power bills to your utility!) It does mean, however, that an energy model created for your facility may need to account for the missing personnel on the weekend.

Ask Yourself: Is Schedule an Energy Driver?

  • If you have access to energy data, compare your energy use during week days with weekends or compare shifts with more personnel on the clock to lighter shifts. If major differences exist, schedule could be an energy driver at your facility.
  • Bonus Energy Tip: It’s important to examine energy use when a facility is idle. This is the “base metabolism” of the facility. If your facility shuts down on weekends and holidays, comparing energy data from the two could be beneficial. Suppose your facility uses 25 percent less energy on average over the weekends than on weekdays. Now, what if holiday use is 50 percent less than your average weekday use? Since you don’t manufacture on either weekends or holidays, comparing your shut-down procedures on weekends to your procedure before holidays could help you save more energy.

 

4. The Nature or Quality of Raw Goods:

What factors constrain your processing time and/or the amount of saleable output? Is the same amount of energy used for operating systems regardless of the rate of manufacture?

Raw goods entering a facility aren’t always of uniform quality, which may cause your production process to slow down. Since most facilities have multiple fixed loads that are on when producing, a slowdown in the process increases the amount of energy cost per unit of finished goods. At a lumber mill, for example, when the head rig handles logs that are comparatively small in diameter, the process slows and energy intensity climbs. In the food industry, cold storage facilities often blast freeze their product. If the temperature of incoming food products is higher than normal, the process may take longer and require more energy to get product down to final temperature.

In some cases, the same amount of energy is expended with diminishing returns. For example, in solution mining an underground cave is flooded with water to dissolve water-soluble mineral deposits, so they can be pumped out for more processing. Over time, the concentration of soluble minerals decreases and the mine realizes less saleable product for the same amount of energy.

Ask Yourself: Is the Nature or Quality of Raw Goods an Energy Driver?

  • Pay attention when product yields fluctuate despite the same per unit input of raw goods or despite employing the same process. If you don’t have an indication that this is a driver already, chances are personnel close to production know which characteristics of raw goods influence output levels. Ask them.

 

Disentangle Your Drivers

Looking at your utility bill history to get a read on your facility’s energy efficiency is kind of like sorting through a crowded power strip to locate the cord belonging to a particular device. It’s messy, the cords are interwoven and indistinguishable, and you might unplug something important before finding the right cord. Energy drivers are like the jumbled tangle of cords. By taking the time to tease them out, you can get a much better sense for your facility’s overall energy picture. Better still, by accounting for your energy drivers in order to track your facility’s true energy performance, you can then turn your attention to lowering energy intensity knowing that you now have an accurate measure of progress. And when you see the resulting cost savings on your utility bill (or the avoided cost from your energy model), then you’ll really have cause for celebration.

Check out and save our energy driver infographic (above) to use as a quick reference. Share it with colleagues whom you think would find it useful, too.

Release Notes – Version 2.3.5

New Features

  • Add toggle control to anchor y-axis at zero
  • NEW VIEW button
  • Demo Support for British Pounds (and Celcius)

Improvements

  • SeriesSelector should ALWAYS default to the first selection (drawer should expand)
  • Activating the “Measure” panel should automatically add a new series if none exist
  • Rename Navigation Tabs
  • Show a clearer error message when dates are not formatted properly on Utility Bill Upload (old)

Bugs

  • Removing the last series from the SeriesSelector should collapse the SeriesComponentPanel
  • “Hide Controls” blanks out bottom of graph
  • Permission denied on proxy throws a missing view take.ctp error

Release Notes – Version 1.5.4

Improvements

  • Feedback button email address routing updated to support@energysensei.com
  • EEF extended to 3 decimal places in summary table view
  • Unicode issues in Action Item PDFs fixed (appearance of degree sign and hyphen)
  • Saved views activated for EEF metric
  • Automatic daily load of weather data
  • Manage pages stay active after save
  • Default landing page changed to Explore
  • Metrics without measurables no longer show in the control interface
  • Add “more” button to accommodate saved views extending beyond screen
  • Hover-over on view data by month improved to show day of month and hour where appropriate

Bug Fixes

  • Site property history view date selector connection to database
  • New Action Item navigation error fixed
  • New Action Item title saving fixed in IE8
  • Fix navigation error in Chrome introduced by new browser release
  • Corrected bugs with EEF ranking table and application of end dates to site properties
  • Tidy data left-overs in manage pages
  • Corrected bugs with EEF ranking table and application of end dates to site properties
  • Tidy data left-overs in manage pages