Energy Management/Energy Efficiency

Once upon a time – how big data is changing everything

UK-Smart-CityI finally traded in the old Chevy on a new car. Among the many items I took out of my 2007 Impala was a book of street maps of the Boston area. I hadn’t used the book in some time, having a smart phone with GPS is just so much easier. I use the WAZE app a lot to avoid traffic and find the fastest route to my destination.

The book of maps is now totally archaic…something that my three grandchildren will likely need explained to them when they are a bit older. I think I’ll keep the book of maps as a curiosity, something I can use to tell them how things were in the olden days (way back in 2010!). Their world will be so interconnected that reading a map will compare to how I viewed ancient mariners using a sextant and the stars to navigate.

I imagine the same change will happen in measurement and verification of energy savings. Today, sub-metering energy consumption is often perceived as complex and costly. The International Performance  Measurement and Verification Protocol was developed to standardize the methodology for verifying energy savings. The IPMVP has developed alternate methods to verify energy savings where extensive sub-metering is deemed not to be practical. Methods include only sub-metering those areas that are the likely major factors in energy use (key parameter measurement), using the whole building utility metering, or a calibrated simulation (modeling) of building energy use. The problem with any of these methods is that they use less data than is optimal, so assumptions need to be made. It’s like the traffic app on my smart phone just using a few data points, rather than the thousands of users it is tracking continuously.

Measurement of energy in facilities is most cost effective when we can tie into the equipment without retrofitting external metering. Often, older equipment does not have inherent measurement and connectivity. Newer equipment is more likely to have these capabilities, but is sold and installed separately from the energy management systems that might use the data,  so there is no incentive to provide metering capability. Add to these barriers the myriad of network protocols used in facilities (BACnet, Modbus, Ethernet IP, etc.) and it’s easy to see why energy measurement can get costly.

Many of the standards organizations are working to try to standardize the interface between facility equipment and the smart grid. This includes ASHRAE, NIST, ODVA, the SGIP and the IEC. The goal of these standards is a more dynamic balance between the available utility supply and the demand from consumers of energy. Better communication between the supply on the “smart grid” and the consumer, with incentives to reduce energy consumption, is a big data application.

So, how can facilities, especially energy intensive industrial sites, more cost effectively measure and manage energy consumption and be ready to leverage smart grid incentives? The first step is to have a network strategy for energy management. Building Automation and Process Automation systems can both use the same network technology (usually Ethernet based). Equipment manufacturers are providing more measurement and connectivity features in equipment and systems. Your network strategy should be able to leverage that embedded intelligence in equipment and conversely, make sure your purchasing decisions require that same functionality. If you get the connectivity right, you will be positioned to leverage big data applications in the future and you’ll be able to say to new hires at your company “once upon a time…”.


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