Energy Software: Do You know What You Need?

One thing became quite clear from my tour of the tradeshow floor at the 2012 World Energy Engineering Conference in Atlanta: There is a sea of energy monitoring software and systems out there. I don’t envy those of you fishing for the right one.

I’ve been in your shoes. At Cascade, we’ve used a few different systems over the past seven years, and evaluated many more. It’s been a real challenge figuring out which system would fulfill our needs and our clients’ requirements. Part of the problem is that even after looking at feature lists and grilling the software folks about capabilities, the truth is, you pretty much have to use it to know how it works and determine if it’s the right fit. That’s even truer when you’re considering how it works from a client perspective. It’s not easy to change to a different platform once you decide that what you have isn’t up to the task. So, how do you settle on the best energy management software for your organization right out of the gate? I think, the best way to start hinges on answering one key question: What do you want to use it for?

Pretty Basic, Right?

If your answer is, “I want to use it to monitor energy use,” then your field is wide open. There are dozens of software packages, such as eSight and Northwrite, which can help you track interval data and provide basic reports.

If your answer is, “To track Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions for my enterprise,” then there are a few packages we know of that do that quite well. Hara’s software platform is one example of an enterprise system designed to track carbon and energy based on utility bills and other monthly data sources. You might also look at C3‘s solutions that also help clients manage their greenhouse gas emissions.

If your answer is, “Lower my energy costs,” then I think, (and yes, I am biased) Cascade’s new platform, SENSEI, is worth a look.

Born from Energy Efficiency, Raised by Code-hounds

Cascade has been in the business of saving companies money through energy efficiency for almost 20 year. Whether you’re a corporate client or a utility, we’re great at achieving 10-30 percent in energy savings. We’ve helped our clients save hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. When we set out to build SENSEI, we focused on a design and feature-set that would meet our customers’ end goals, to save energy and money. And we made sure SENSEI would be something an energy engineer would appreciate using every day out on the floor by:

  • Providing access to energy information in a few clicks
  • Offering the functionality to save favorite views
  • Allowing you to view the information you want, the way you want

Connecting the Dots

Visit energySENSEI.com and you’ll see that by “connection” I’m talking about people getting down to the business of saving energy—together. The SENSEI platform supports that process by giving you the ability to interact around real-time events, to assign tasks, troubleshoot problems, and document actions taken.

We wanted to create a tool that provided corrective actions, because we believe that connecting actions to energy performance provides invaluable intelligence. And connecting people around a common efficiency goal ensures the job gets done.

We’ve only just begun

Yeah, I know it’s the title of that Carpenters’ hit song (hey, I grew up on 70’s folk/rock) but, it’s also a battle cry of sorts. Cascade is committed to giving SENSEI the resources to expand and improve at a rapid pace. We have a great roadmap brimming with ideas based on our years of experience. And we’d love to hear from you and get feedback about what you need to be successful.

If you’re trying to locate that “just right” platform that will help you lower your energy costs, SENSEI just might be your answer. Check it out!

The Future of Energy Tracking Software: What’s New for SENSEI

SENSEI

SENSEI, Cascade Energy’s, new industrial  energy efficiency platform launched in 2012, and as soon as the launch-party punch bowl was drained, we got busy working on new functionality and fine-tuning existing features. Here’s a look at what we’re planning for SENSEI:

  • More efficient site setup and improved scalability to make the onboarding system for new customers and facilities easier and faster.
  • Streamlined data handling that generates quicker, more robust imports and exports, so that it takes less time to upload and access utility bill, or production data.
  • Improved plot titling for a better landing page experience. Now, you can rename and order your saved views, and select the default landing page view of your choice.
  • Enhanced action item accountability. You’ll be able to categorize and organize your team’s action items in more ways. For example, it will be easy to separate actions related to O&M activity from management-specific tasks.

Intelligent tracking of system data leads to more informed decisions

Behind a strategic increase in energy efficiency stands a defined process that includes establishing performance through data collection, identifying issues and assigning actions, and tracking energy savings and improvements, as well as any backsliding events. SENSEI was uniquely designed to drive this process, and now we’re working to improve it through:

New capital asset tracking. We’re adding functionality that allows companies to easily inventory their major energy-consuming systems. For example, if your company has multiple facilities and you want to see which plants have completed installation of variable frequency drives on their refrigeration system screw compressors, that information will be accessible in a few clicks. This tool allows corporate energy managers unparalleled intelligence regarding remaining capital energy projects across their portfolio of 30, 100, or 1000 facilities.

More calculated meters based on more complicated and advanced formulas will make something like calculating your facility’s kWh per pounds of production, a snap. You’ll have access to plus, minus, divide, and percentage functionality directly through the user interface without needing to rely on administrative support to build these metrics. And administrators will be given power to more quickly input complex regression formulas that predict facility energy use from key energy drivers.

Enterprise roll-ups will aggregate facility-specific data into a single graphical or tabular view for your entire enterprise. This way you can view key energy performance metrics for all your sites in one place.  And you can rank and compare their performance quickly to see which facility is performing best and which one still has opportunity to improve.

Expanded report section that lets you add and name report images (created in our powerful reporting engine) and then share them with selected users. Easily select the most important reports to regularly share with your stakeholders, so that everyone gets the same clear information every month.

A Better-Trained Workforce Leads to Increased Productivity

Cascade has undertaken a long-term initiative to build a learning management system of online training videos. We’re beginning the process of creating a roster of relevant courses that will eventually be made available to SENSEI users and accessible directly from the SENSEI interface.

We have a lot on our development plates in the coming months. We’ll keep you posted as we release new SENSEI features and functionality.

Tackle Industrial Energy Management Projects with Ease

low cost no cost maintenance

Operations and maintenance (O&M) activities don’t have to be a drain on an industrial energy manager or facility operator’s time when energy monitoring software, connecting data to action, is in place.

If you’re a plant energy manager, you know your facility operators have To-Do lists a mile long. When operators are charged with keeping a large facility running strong and maintaining the machines that drive productivity and profit, they may have little time left to spend on mastering energy consumption. Yet, from an energy manager’s perspective O&M is a very important activity.

Sometimes not everyone has a clear picture as to just how much O&M affects energy efficiency. In many cases facility maintenance staff either may not know what measures to take to increase energy efficiency, or maybe they do know, but see too many barriers to accomplishing O&M improvements. The bottom line is that everyone needs to get involved in supporting an O&M effort.

Driving Success for O&M Efforts

So how does an energy manager promote O&M activity to drive energy efficiency, so that all of a facility’s energy stakeholders understand the benefits and agree it’s a priority?

First, it’s important that everyone recognize the benefits of O&M actions as low-cost, no-cost ways of achieving significant savings on a facility’s energy bills.

Second, in addition to energy and resource savings, everyone should understand that a well-run O&M program can:

  • Increase plant safety
  • Ensure that the life expectancy of machines and equipment is achieved
  • Facilitate compliance with local and federal energy management legislation

Third, you need to figure out how to gain traction on those O&M efforts without compromising productivity. A big part of that answer lies in the tools your company uses to monitor and analyze energy consumption. With the right tools—tools that get you the exactly the information you need, and that facilitate a collaborative approach—O&M projects don’t have to be a drag on anyone’s day. In an ideal situation your energy monitoring program should provide your team with clear information, leading to specific actions and reasonable deadlines that are delegated to team members. That way everyone knows what the plan is, who’s doing what, and when tasks are due to be completed.

O&M may sometimes be seen as a distraction, but when your team is “all-in” and you have the right tools in place, your O&M accomplishments will feel like a big win for everybody in your company. In fact, your plant may become the model that the rest of the enterprise looks to for best practices in meeting industrial energy efficiency goals.

For More Information …

If you’re in the process of selecting energy monitoring software, check out our blog post on Energy Tracking Software: Do You Know What You Need?

For detailed O&M information, including a chapter on O&M for specific equipment types from boilers, chillers, and cooling towers to fans, pumps, and motors, download the U.S. Department of Energy’s Operations & Maintenance Best Practices guide: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/pdfs/omguide_complete.pdf

Understanding Energy Data: More Points for Metering Not Always Better

fries napkins ketchup

It’s a truism that you can never get enough of a good thing. Think of the extra stuff you grabbed during your last fast food run: Fistful of napkins? Thirteen packets of ketchup?–Check, check.

Not so surprisingly, many industrial facility managers look at taking a similar approach with metering energy use: The more points, the better. Despite—or maybe because of—the richness of available data, extracting and then maximizing its value can be difficult. Some customers have had many points installed with “wires still dangling,” meaning collected data never feeds into a system. Just as frequently, these points are tied into a system but views, dashboards, and reports don’t communicate beneficial information.

Why? Call it a case of data overload. The complexity of working with and understanding energy data—especially high-volume interval data—increases with the number of points. Yes, you can always aggregate metered data for reporting, but it is often not worth the expense to add several sub-meters, for example, when a single meter upstream can capture the same data and a predictive energy model can be used to make the most of that data.

So how many points are optimal for monitoring? Or what should even be metered? There may not be any hard and fast rules, but a minimalist approach could have value and save you some headaches.

Here are three helpful tips to consider as you build (or reconfigure) your next energy information system (EIS):

1) Meter Only What You Plan to Monitor

It makes little sense to have streams of data you don’t ever look at, or can’t make sense of when you do. Some questions you should be able to answer:

  • What data streams do you set some realistic alarms on?
  • Who will respond to those alarms?
  • What will they do when alarms occur?
  • Is the data granular enough to determine the problem, or do you have to talk to system operators to figure out what changed?

2) Meter Only What You Can Effectively Improve

Forget metering the “Steady Eddies,” the systems that always have the same run times or output. Because people drive energy usage, pay special attention to systems that can backslide from previous efficiency gains (like savings acquired from improvements to operations and maintenance [O&M]) or those with fluctuating usage schedules. Some questions you should be able to answer:

  • If energy use of a given sub-system is up, can you assess why?
  • Are you able to allocate sub-system energy to the production lines or processes driving that use?
  • Could we get by with less monitoring and an effective whole-facility or key sub-system model factoring in key energy drivers to effectively show when we are getting better or worse?

3) Meter Only What Works within Your Budget

It comes as little surprise that adding several sub-meters to an EIS can add considerable cost to the project —not only hardware, but a lot of personnel time as well. What you might not realize is that it can also intensify the pressure to drive more savings to justify the higher costs. If you’re working too hard to justify the expense to management, you may want to reconsider the scale of your monitoring system. An incremental approach can prove the effectiveness of monitoring one step at a time, and may be the only way to get funding for your monitoring project in the first place.

If you’d like to discuss the right scope for your monitoring project, give us a call. We’ll work with you to find a solution that fits within your budget while maximizing your return on the effort.

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Energy Tracking Software For Continuous Energy Improvement

Orchestrating a strategic energy management (SEM) or a continuous energy improvement (CEI) program is an ambitious endeavor. CEOs, managers, and facility operators all have to understand the impact of factors such as production and weather on their facility’s energy consumption. Systems need to be developed to identify and manage energy saving opportunities. And then, a facility-wide energy team should be established to implement projects and quantify the results.

Given the constant changes in product lines, shipping schedules, weather patterns, and personnel, industrial energy management demands a tool that offers maximum flexibility for viewing data while helping to drive operations and maintenance projects to completion.  

Continuous Energy Improvement

Earlier this year, Cascade launched the SENSEI™ energy efficiency platform. Based on Cascade’s nearly 20 years in the industrial energy management business, SENSEI was designed by energy engineers to not only monitor energy usage but to also drive and track continuous energy savings at the largest and most complex industrial sites.

SENSEI is a multifaceted platform that can help support any CEI program. With “Explore” users can visualize energy performance quickly and easily without getting bogged down by multiple, customized spreadsheets. “Act” organizes technical and operational opportunities for systematic implementation giving team members a central location from which to coordinate tasks and ensure timely completion.

One of SENSEI’s most powerful aspects is the ability to tag changes in normalized energy performance to specific activities. This allows energy teams to easily visualize energy performance, manage their activities accordingly, and quantify savings so that management can quickly see the value of their investment.

For utility account managers, SENSEI matches program offerings to customer needs at exactly the right time—leading to greater customer satisfaction and integration across program portfolios.

SENSEI can be the energy tracking software that makes the difference to your CEI program by reducing the administrative, analytical, and organizational hurdles involved. SENSEI makes CEI work for utilities and corporate customers alike.

For more information, or to schedule a demonstration call 866-321-4573.

Thinking about continuous energy improvement? Simplify program complexity with SENSEI.

 

 

Orchestrating a strategic energy management (SEM) or a continuous energy improvement (CEI) program is an ambitious endeavor. CEOs, managers, and facility operators all have to understand the impact of factors such as production and weather on their facility’s energy consumption. Systems need to be developed to identify and manage energy saving opportunities. And then, a facility-wide energy team should be established to implement projects and quantify the results.

 

Given the constant changes in product lines, shipping schedules, weather patterns, and personnel, industrial energy management demands a tool that offers maximum flexibility for viewing data while helping to drive operations and maintenance projects to completion.

 

A common platform can help bring these disparate elements together.

Earlier this year, Cascade launched the SENSEI™ energy efficiency platform. Based on Cascade’s nearly 20 years in the industrial energy management business, SENSEI was designed by energy engineers to not only monitor energy usage but to also drive and track continuous energy savings at the largest and most complex industrial sites.

 

SENSEI is a multifaceted platform that can help support any CEI program. With “Explore” users can visualize energy performance quickly and easily without getting bogged down by multiple, customized spreadsheets. “Act” organizes technical and operational opportunities for systematic implementation giving team members a central location from which to coordinate tasks and ensure timely completion.

 

One of SENSEI’s most powerful aspects is the ability to tag changes in normalized energy performance to specific activities. This allows energy teams to easily visualize energy performance, manage their activities accordingly, and quantify savings so that management can quickly see the value of their investment.

 

For utility account managers, SENSEI matches program offerings to customer needs at exactly the right time—leading to greater customer satisfaction and integration across program portfolios.

 

SENSEI can be the tool that makes the difference to your CEI program by reducing the administrative, analytical, and organizational hurdles involved. SENSEI makes CEI work for utilities and corporate customers alike.

 

For more information, or to schedule a demonstration call 866-321-4573.

CASCADE ENERGY INTRODUCES SENSEI ENERGY EFFICIENCY PLATFORM

First-ever system connecting actions to energy performance unlocks new efficiencies for industrial companies and utilities


ATLANTA – (October 31, 2012) — A first-of-its-kind energy efficiency management system designed to help industrial companies master their energy spend was introduced today by Cascade Energy, a leading provider of energy efficiency services, at the World Energy Engineering Congress.


Taking aim at the $95 billion annual energy bill of U.S. industrial companies, the new SENSEI™ energy efficiency platform is a comprehensive Web-based system that makes it possible for industrial leaders to establish true energy performance, drive action to reduce consumption and track associated savings across entire enterprises.

 

“With SENSEI, energy management can move beyond one-time capital upgrades or occasional best practices to a comprehensive system that encourages the sustained action required to capture greater efficiency,” said Dan Brown, Cascade Energy vice president of product development.

 

“We can now connect actions to energy performance in a way that drives change in operations and maintenance, employee behavior and management practices. This opens the door for significant sustainable savings, and in some utility territories, significant incentives.”

 

SENSEI was created by Cascade Energy due to the absence of actions-to-performance energy management systems available in the marketplace. The company, located in Portland, Oregon, self-funded the yearlong development of SENSEI with a 10-person development team. The platform has been tested in large industrial enterprises and has application in commercial buildings.

 

SENSEI provides real-time energy consumption tracking and visual displays of key performance indicators, including energy correlations to plant throughput, comparisons with previous periods, event tagging overlaid on energy performance and reporting of cumulative savings across multiple facilities. The company has also built SENSEI to help industrial customers track their carbon footprint.

 

The introduction of SENSEI comes at a time when industrial companies are working diligently to contain energy costs, which are growing faster than the consumer price index and represent 5-40 percent of a manufacturing company’s cost of goods. According to Pike Research, the industrial energy management software and services industry is expected to achieve 22 percent annualized growth through 2020.

 

SENSEI is available in North America on a subscription basis to utilities and companies. Service options for professional support, meter installation, sub-metering, data aggregation, and transmission hardware are also available. More information is available at www.energysensei.com.

 

Cascade Energy has experienced four-fold growth over the past five years, and now employs over 90 professionals. The company is one of the largest in the nation dedicated to industrial energy efficiency. Completed projects total more than 3,000 across a variety of industries including, cold storage, refrigerated warehouse, food processing, agribusiness, oil and gas, pulp and paper, and general manufacturing sectors. Cascade Energy has operated in about half the industrial sites in the Northwest and, six years ago, expanded its service area across North America. The company’s projects are saving industrial companies roughly two billion kWh annually, amounting to $125 million saved per year.

 

Contact:
Doug Anderson, 503.928.4811
mediarelations@cascadeenergy.com

Kroger Q&A

Getting on the Same Page with SENSEI Action Item Tracking
Q&A with Bryan Handy, Kroger Logistics Sustainability Project Manager

 

SENSEI: Tell me about Kroger’s energy program and goals.

Bryan Handy: The energy program at Kroger has been ongoing for several years, but initially, we didn’t really have a baseline to establish what kind of return we were getting from our projects. We made a decision in the Logistics group to establish a monitoring program to sustain the reductions we were able to get. We went out for bid about three years ago for that program: The first stage was monitoring, and the second stage was optimization.

We’ve established the baseline now and have gone back and compared to internal numbers. In the original program, we had targeted a 5 percent per year reduction. Though we didn’t get anywhere, we wanted to continue trying to do better. We thought we might do a facility optimization program combined with capital projects through audits done in 2004 and others more recently. We set some overall reduction goal for each site based on that information, and we’re tracking that data going forward.

 

SENSEI: What challenges and barriers have you faced along the way? What have you learned?

BH: Behavioral and training is the biggest challenge—getting people to shut doors between refrigerated spaces all the way and turning off lights on docks and rooms. Also, making sure that when we start doing a review, we get the buy-in of the upper management at the site and operations manager. When we show them how they can get involved and how they’ll get the support and tools they need, like the energy monitoring program, they can see the results.

 

SENSEI: Why is tracking operations and maintenance (O&M) activities important to your overall energy goals? And how does SENSEI help?

BH: We’ve found that the way equipment is being operated is not energy efficient. Specific pieces like valves and pumps aren’t working or aren’t 100%—they need maintenance. If they’re maintained, we can have greater efficiency at lower cost. Having a tool where we can see what’s being done and where the site folks who are implementing changes can see what they need to do next is very important. We can look at how complex each project is and maximize savings up front by knocking out the simpler tasks first.

 

SENSEI: What’s your method for knocking out these O&M improvements with SENSEI?

BH: We come up with the list of action items while we’re at each site and help them with a few to ensure buy-in. Then, later we’ll send a long list to the site. By using SENSEI, we’re not just able to give them a snapshot, but we can also categorize them by how difficult they’ll be to complete and also by the energy impact they will have. So we can look at cost, the efficiency benefit, and the length of the project. After we set deadlines for about half of action items up front, we do a conference call with everyone involved about a week after the walk-through. We break out the tasks that are easier to complete, as well as those that will have the greatest impact.

 

SENSEI: Do you think the SENSEI Action Item tracking helps with building momentum and buy-in?

BH: It really helps, also with accountability. It’s hard to get things implemented without accountability. In SENSEI, everyone can see the deadlines for upcoming projects. The facility staff and I can be on a call together and make notes in the task list. In some instances, we might want to change it on the fly with the site person and the engineer talking about the task over the phone.

 

SENSEI: Kroger has worked with Cascade Energy for some time. What has made that partnership so successful?

BH: The savings from the first few optimizations with Kroger were huge, but there was no follow up or sustainability program, which we were aware of. So we came back to Cascade, who was in the process of building that same kind of sustainability program for another customer. And we knew we were going to get results. Cascade has been really willing to adapt and put together some programs like SENSEI and custom changes to reporting that Kroger wanted.

Ben E. Keith Case Study

Compare Performance Periods Side-by-Side with SENSEI

Q&A with Ben E. Keith Amarillo’s Kavan Yarber, Facility Manager, and Scott Markham, Refrigeration Technician (plus, resident computer guru)

 

SENSEI: How long have you been trying to roll back the meter to save energy at your facility? What have you accomplished so far?

Kavan Yarber: We started an energy program with Cascade Energy in 2009. We’ve reduced our energy usage quite a bit. Our baseline was 2.5 million kilowatt-hours; now we’re at about 1.5 million kilowatt-hours, so that’s a 39% change. We’re continually dropping our energy intensity by adding LEDs and a new control system for refrigeration, which helps us a bunch.

 

SENSEI: Why does Ben E. Keith pursue energy efficiency as a corporate strategy?

KY: We’re looking to save energy, and also save money. Our electrical bill went down from $70,000 a month to $39,000. That’s a lot of money. And when you do that for six branches, it amounts to a lot of savings. The company as a whole is down 27.6%. It makes sense to save money and reduce our carbon footprint. We’re still looking every day at what we can do to reduce electrical, refrigeration, lighting usage.

 

SENSEI: How do you think SENSEI will help you achieve your energy reduction goals?

KY: By monitoring it, we’ll be able to view impact of the energy improvements we’re making. Without monitoring, we can’t see the effect of those changes. In the future, we’re going to be able to view some of the other corporate location’s logs, and see what they did to improve performance. I think that will be a great feature. We’ll be able to see other branches’ action items and how those items affected the energy use of that location. That will help us a lot.

 

SENSEI: Scott, what features in SENSEI have been most valuable to you?

Scott Markham: The comparison of data week-to-week and month-to-month [data overlay] can tell me whether a change has helped or hurt energy performance. With that intelligence, I can keep making adjustments to help lower energy use.

 

SENSEI: How does SENSEI compare to the other energy management software you’ve used?

SM: SENSEI is a lot more user friendly. It also displays information much faster and more clearly than others. And now that my saved views on the dashboard are set up, I just log in to look at what I need to see.

 

SENSEI: I have one more question for Kavan: You’ve worked with Cascade now for a few years. What is it about the partnership that you’ve had as a facility manager with Cascade that’s made your energy program successful?

KY: They’ve been a great help. It’s nice to get a second set of eyes to come in and see a little bit more than what I usually see. Any advice they give, we all go over it and look at implementing it.