Building energy management systems

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Digitization and visualization are two key pillars which can help us achieve our energy efficiency goals, especially in the buildings market, if we are keen to manage our energy consumption effectively. The one challenge which visualization brings with it is about qualified staff to decipher the data, study trends and act accordingly. Adding to that talent pool is therefore important.

In my current role at Schneider Electric, I have had the unique opportunity to sit across the table with customers, some with a cumulative building footprint of anything between 10 to 30 million square feet in India, aggregating an electricity bill of around INR 150 million to 250 million a month. That’s a big number to grasp, and even a lower single digit percentage savings on this will be significant. What keeps me awake, is the quest of finding the reasons for overlooking energy efficiency in such large buildings, with huge energy bills.

I believe that the reasons for this lack of prioritization in these large organisations, could be anything ranging from a lack of awareness, ownership, intent, procedural issues, interdepartmental dependence, low prioritization of sustainability goals, split incentives between owner and tenant (customer), to finally lack of CXO level engagement to drive energy management across the enterprise.  For a start, the facility and operations team have to clearly understand the difference between a Building Management System (BMS) and an Energy Management System (EMS). The job of a BMS is primarily to manage and control the building systems, especially HVAC, lighting, access control, etc., whereas the job of a EMS is to provide energy, demand and power quality monitoring. It is the EMS which can facilitate effective energy visualization and analytics, provide dashboards and trends for energy consumption at equipment, system, building, campus and portfolio levels, which can be used effectively for decision making.

There are solutions which do much more than a traditional BMS and also give the user an additional functionality of energy management and power quality monitoring. A well respected research company, Navigant Consulting has consistently placed Schneider Electric on top of their leader-board report for Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) amongst various global solution providers. Customization of plans, modernize the buildings and BMS’s while preserving the existing site investment. Some solutions help to monitor and manage the entire building’s performance on one network, across the enterprise. A good BEMS will allow the user to slice and dice the data in any manner in order to take out intelligent and actionable information. It will provide additional scope for energy savings. Any BEMS will pull the base data of the building from the BMS, so it’s absolutely critical to have a BMS which is functional in every aspect.

Large organisations, in my opinion, may need upskilling of their facility managers and need at least one energy manager in each of their energy intensive site to make the best use of the BEMS. We are all aware of the energy dilemma we are facing today or the percentage of total energy consumption in the buildings sector, as a lot is already written and published about it.  This is something which needs to be immediately addressed.
Before I sign off, I would like to open a conversation around energy management as a continuous process and not a one-time job. It’s always easy to address the low hanging fruits when we begin the energy efficiency journey but using a better BEMS tool will continue to provide actionable data and keep the building energy efficient during the entire life cycle of the building. So investing in a BEMS is a wise decision to manage your energy cost and maintenance issues in the long run.

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  • Very well articulated, as cities are growing vertically energy management is going to be the key issue .I feel government should step in as a regulator on drafting policies for real estate builders to comply on certain bems practises. Bcz energy is scarce resource and conservation needs to be enforced to some extent.

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