Why smart building owners look to smart power distribution to enhance uptime and lower energy bills

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According to GlobeNewswire, the worldwide market for smart building-related products was valued at over $49 billion in 2019 and is forecasted to grow to $127 billion by 2027. Better control over energy costs and lower CO2 emissions are big drivers of this growth. The momentum shows no sign of slowing down, amidst rising utility costs and environmental challenges. As governments around the world continue to set ambitious energy conservation targets, smart building technology promises to continue to play a central role. (Listen to LinkedIn live replay of Design a Winning Strategy for Your Business.)

smart building

One of the key trends that enable buildings to achieve lower emissions and lower energy cost goals is the “smart” electrification of the building. The terms “building electrification,” “beneficial electrification,” and “building decarbonization” all describe the shift to the use of electricity rather than fossil fuels for powering buildings. The goal is for clean power to come into the building, for more building processes to be electrified, and to support facility staff in operating those processes as efficiently as possible.

Smart building owners look to electrical distribution systems

When forward-looking owners of commercial buildings and manufacturing sites budget for new building assets, more and more of them are planning to add digital intelligence into core systems such as in-building electrical distribution systems. Traditional electrical distribution systems include service entrance, cable, connectors, switchgear, panels, and transformers  ̶  all specifically designed and integrated to optimally support the building’s existing load. The new smart electrical distribution systems add smart electrical metering and sensors (to capture electrical system performance data), and power management and monitoring software (that analyzes the data in real time) to that equation.

On average, electrical systems represent about 10% to 15% of the overall new building project budget with the digitization and software elements representing only a small fraction of the total cost.  However, that small investment proves critical to achieving the greater goals of lower operating costs and low energy consumption.

Smart power distribution is a game-changer for smart building owners

We at AZZO, a Schneider Electric Master-level Critical Power EcoXpert and power systems integrator, have been asked to address many power-related issues across both commercial and industrial building sites. We have seen the benefits of digitizing building electrical distribution systems firsthand. By using smart building technologies and proper monitoring, we help customers to both reduce energy waste and avoid instances of unplanned downtime caused by electrical short circuits, excessive harmonics, and electrical system-induced fires.

3 ways smart buildings benefit from smart electrical distribution systems

The benefits derived from smart electrical distribution systems usually fall into three general categories:

#1 – Lower cost

A smart electrical distribution system allows a building owner to be in a much better position to allocate and distribute usage costs and to set reasonable targets for lowering those costs. An owner of a manufacturing site may have four lines that build completely different products within the plant. Line two may be the most energy-intensive of those manufacturing processes. However, the owner receives one giant bill from the electrical utility at the end of each month. Who’s responsible for generating most of those expenses and how does that trickle down into the cost of the four products being produced? Without smart digitized systems on the power and energy sides, the owner won’t have access to that information, and, as a result, profit margins will be lower than they could be.

#2 – Reduced downtime

Smart electrical distribution systems also enable much more precise power capacity management. This can address two issues: underutilization (sunk cost with no return) and overutilization (instances of unanticipated downtime due to circuit overloads). For example, one circuit may have an 800-amp capacity, but only 200 amps are being used consistently. If a manufacturing process expert recommends that a new robot be added to the assembly line, is the power available to allow that to happen? In a traditional setting, the owner of the plant would need to perform an expensive and time-consuming manual engineering and data processing evaluation to determine the answer. Using smart software tools like Schneider Electric’s Power Monitoring Expert (PME), facilities teams would instantly have access to the capacity data needed to quickly determine whether adding the new robot would require an upgrade to the power system or whether unused capacity within the system is available that can now be dedicated to operating the new robot.

$3 – Regulatory compliance

Another advantage of a smart electrical distribution system is the ability to document and demonstrate compliance with industry power quality standards like IEEE 519 (a system guideline for setting limits on voltage and current distortion) and EN50160. The software tracks electrical system performance and determines whether the power quality incidents that occurred in the building were severe or minor. In fact, the software classifies those incidences and generates reports that can be used to address the requests of regulators and utilities regarding the distortion of waveforms and emission of harmful harmonics (see my blog on power quality for more information). Such insights allow the building owner to avoid unnecessary fines or surcharges, and to improve the safety of building occupants.

For more information

For building owners, the emergence of smart electrical distribution systems is a game-changer when it comes to cost control and lower carbon emissions. To learn more about how smart power distribution can help your business, read our blog series or visit the Schneider Electric web pages.

Global100 Schneider Electric has been recognized as the world’s most sustainable corporation in 2021 by Corporate Knights Global 100 Index.

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