Energy Management Systems: How immediate benefits drive strategic gains

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Wade Leipold is the executive vice president of Faith Technologies Incorporated (FTI). FTI is a Master EcoXpert™ and is proud to partner with Schneider Electric to provide EcoStruxure™ IoT open architecture building management and security systems to our clients. A dynamic organization comprised of construction, engineering, manufacturing, and renewable energy experts, we create success for our partners and team members through innovation and expertise, rethinking how energy is designed, applied, and consumed – providing solutions that prepare clients for today and the future.

Many organizations don’t fully understand the benefits and importance of adopting power metering and quality monitoring with an energy management system (EMS). As a result, they often delay implementation due to a perception of high costs and low returns. But an EMS can actually accelerate your ROI. In this blog, I outline the immediate benefits an EMS provides, how it can drive what an organization needs long term, and a few other considerations like timing and software options.

Harnessing immediate benefits

Shortly after your EMS is installed and commissioned, you will be able to answer the following questions:

  • Do we have power quality issues?  If so, what types and how can you fix them?
  • What is running and using energy when it doesn’t need to be?
  • What are the largest energy users and what are the results after we try to optimize their usage?
  • What is causing our utility peaks that we pay for monthly?
  • Is there anything that is near overload in our system?
  • What was going on when that breaker tripped?

Energy metering will show you where you can reduce costs and use less energy.  Power quality monitoring will alert you to the silent killers that damage your equipment.  This means that you can do something about a problem before you spend extra money on equipment. You can improve your bottom line going forward because you now have the data to do it.

In addition, with the right type of electrical metering, your maintenance and operations teams will have the data to understand why a breaker tripped and if any others are close to tripping. This provides safety benefits as well, because when a breaker trips, the equipment shuts off unexpectedly, posing a hazard.

All of this streamlines problem-solving and bolsters overall operational uptime. And it is available to you right after you commission the system.

Achieving long-term goals through data-driven decisions

Not only can an EMS solution help you save money, increase uptime, and protect equipment, but it  also provides you with the data you need to make informed decisions in the facility going forward.

For instance, an EMS can help you measure progress on sustainability targets and show you where your conservation focus should be. A facility planning a solar installation might use EMS data to decide if it needs new switchboards or panels, ensuring financial viability.  As facilities change and expand, or add EV charging, an EMS can show you where you have room to grow safely with existing distribution equipment. Finally, nothing in an operation is ever static.  As you make decisions that affect your energy usage, you will quickly be able to see the impact with real data.

An EMS also offers insights into power quality to drive long-term operational resilience. By continuously monitoring your electrical distribution network, it helps you address power quality issues as early as feasible – before they cost you significant downtime or equipment damage. A renewable natural gas client of ours used their power quality monitoring tools to identify a utility fault that was causing system resets. The utility found a hardware issue with the data and they were able to reduce downtime and protect their equipment.

This proactive approach maximizes uptime, cuts production costs, and lays the groundwork for a robust and resilient operational strategy.

Greenfield vs. brownfield considerations

In greenfield and brownfield projects, metering is pivotal in achieving future energy efficiency, uptime, and sustainability. Metering existing facilities can help you understand what future facilities will use.  When customers ask us, “When is the right time to install metering and power quality monitoring at my facility?” the answer is simple. 

  • Are you building a new facility? Meter the energy enough so that you can drive conservation and detect power quality issues.
  • Do you have an existing facility that you plan on using for the next 4+ years? Start your energy cost savings today and be ready for when you need to build a new facility with data!

For those who may think, “I can install this later – my capital for my new facility is tight,” I urge you to reconsider. In general, retrofit installations cost 40% more, require downtime, and you’ll be paying for wasted energy that could have been detected by an EMS.

Choosing the right hardware and software

In a well-integrated EMS, hardware feeds data continuously to the software, which then analyzes and displays it in a user-friendly way. This allows you to monitor energy usage and develop strategies to reduce costs and improve resilience. Additionally, an integrated EMS is a powerful tool for compliance and reporting – particularly for tracking and reporting greenhouse gas emissions in near real-time to demonstrate your commitment to transparency and environmental responsibility.

Selecting the proper hardware is essential in setting up an effective EMS. Different types of meters cater to various needs:

  • Single-circuit power meters measure volts, amps, and power in specific areas or equipment, offering detailed insights into isolated energy use.
  • Multi-circuit power meters monitor several circuits simultaneously, making them ideal for larger distribution points where you need an overview of energy use across different sections.
  • Power quality meters detect issues such as harmonics and can capture waveforms that reveal what is happening in real-time. This is crucial in settings where stable and high-quality power is vital for sensitive equipment.

Effective data analysis in an EMS hinges on the software used to interpret the data collected by the hardware. It should clearly visualize energy usage, showing real-time consumption and historical trends while making it easy to compare different times or areas across a facility. The software must also identify power quality issues, such as voltage sags, harmonics, or imbalances. The best EMS software offers predictive insights, analyzing data trends and patterns to forecast future issues. This allows you to proactively tackle problems, preventing them from becoming more significant.

Energy Management Systems vs. Building Automation Systems

Clients often ask why they can’t use their existing Building Automation System (BAS) for these needs. While BAS can read data from energy meters, an EMS is designed to integrate with energy monitoring hardware immediately. This integration allows for comprehensive data utilization. An EMS excels in visualizing energy usage, power quality issues, and equipment state with minimal programming required. It provides predictive information to alert users about potential failures before they occur, enhancing proactive maintenance.

Another critical feature of an EMS is its ability to generate and export detailed data reports, offering insights into energy trends and usage patterns. It can also distinguish whether electrical issues originate from within the system or from the utility, a crucial aspect of troubleshooting. Unlike the more static displays of a BAS, an EMS offers flexibility. It allows users to create custom dashboards and run reports, fostering a more interactive and user-friendly experience. This flexibility and detailed reporting capability make EMS more suitable if you want in-depth, actionable insights from your energy data.

The sooner you start, the further you’ll get

Combining short-term savings with long-term sustainability achievements, EMS achieves its full potential. Immediate cost reduction supports the strategic move toward a sustainable future. Reducing energy consumption and preventing downtime improve the bottom line in the short term.  The data creates a foundation for long-term sustainability initiatives, expansion, and continued conservation. As you enjoy today’s benefits, you gain more confidence, based on the data, to invest in projects that support sustainable practices and conservation.

Learn more about Schneider Electric’s commitment to a sustainable future, or feel free to contact us at FTI to discuss how we can help you drive your sustainability goals with data.

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The path to net zero is about delivering solutions for sustainable, resilient, efficient, and people-centric buildings. For our EcoXpert partners, this unveils immense growth opportunities through the transition to end-to-end portfolio sales that will resolve our customers’ most critical needs. For our shared customers, this means that together with our EcoXpert partners, we will drive the building industry transformation and help our customers survive and thrive today – and tomorrow.

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