Why smart meters are key to achieving high efficiency buildings

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By 2030 global electricity consumption will be 70% higher than it is today. At the same time, energy efficiency solutions will account for 57% of the reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The energy used for buildings is the single largest producer of GHGs, while electricity accounts for up to 50% of CO2 emissions attributable to residential and commercial buildings.

To address this issue, the ultimate goal is for buildings to produce more energy than they consume, an objective that is reflected in recent regulations. The EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), for example, requires all new buildings to be close to zero-energy by 2020. However, most buildings have a long way to go in order to fulfill such a directive.

Sound energy management practices, which start with effective energy consumption measurement, will need to be implemented on a massive scale if energy efficiency and CO2 emissions goals are to be achieved. Metering and monitoring are the essential tools for measurement and the basic building blocks for efficient energy management. Effective metering and monitoring provides building owners and operators with the crucial information they need to improve building energy performance.

In a single operator, owner-occupied office building, an effective metering and monitoring system will generally generate an immediate energy savings of 10%.  Over the long run, building operations that are enhanced with proper monitoring and control of energy usage can deliver up to 30% in energy savings.

Continuous automatic metering systems use dynamic energy dashboards for displaying building operation and energy consumption information. Graphs, tables, and images illustrate energy data in ways that facilitate sound decisions. For example, an energy dashboard may show that a building’s ventilation system is consuming more that it should. Once alerted to that fact, the operator can reduce motor speed by only a few Hz, thereby reducing consumption, without any negative impact on performance.

Continuous automatic metering also provides building owners, operators, and occupants with access to the data they need to optimize current electricity supply contracts and to negotiate new, more cost-effective ones. Multisite facility managers and building operators can also aggregate loads to negotiate bulk utility contracts. Accurate shadow bills can be used to spot utility billing errors and determine whether suppliers are complying with contractual terms.

Steps for initiating the energy management process

To ensure that metering and auditing meet user and regulatory requirements, performance should be measured against meaningful metrics. For example, in office buildings, kWh/m² and kWh/occupant are standard metrics. In hotels kWh/occupancy rate or kWh/overnight are key metrics and for industrial buildings, kWh/production rate is a key metric. The data should also be correlated with heating degree days and cooling degree days to compare current building consumption with previous years and with buildings in other locations.

In order to get started, organizations should first identify user needs and determine the scope of future energy monitoring systems. The next step is to determine the performance metrics and data to be measured that will link building activity and energy consumption. Then, the appropriate project team should determine the metering points (location + type of meter) that will allow operators to monitor and control the building according to their objectives, and to ensure gathered data enables the desired analysis.

Finally, meters should be selected based on corporate energy objectives. If existing primary meters are able to read energy data, reuse may be possible, otherwise new incoming meters should be installed. Additional meters should be selected as per metering points requirements and building operation objectives.

To learn more, visit our entire suite of metering solutions and download our free white paper, “Designing a Metering System for Small and Medium-Sized Buildings.”

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