What is energy management?
Energy management is the process of proactively monitoring, controlling and reducing energy consumption in your home or, more commonly, across your business. With the ultimate goal to reduce operating costs, as well as lowering the amount of carbon emissions you produce, a properly structured and controlled strategy has the ability to streamline your usage and drastically reduce your bills. The process can involve small changes, such as manually monitoring your usage via smart meters, investing in more efficient equipment, or making your existing buildings more energy efficient through upgrades. However, more commonly, business energy management refers to a technology-aided process of analysing, monitoring and tracking all aspects of your energy usage habits and changing them accordingly.
Stages of energy management for businesses
In order to enjoy the long-term benefits, strategies are usually executed in four main stages:
• Installation: Install the necessary systems across your business to collect useful energy consumption data.
• Analysis: Using the new data generated, identify the areas of your business where energy is being wasted.
• Action: Take proactive steps to save energy based on your findings – this can be done through installing more energy efficient technology, making use of renewable energy sources where possible, and working to reduce ‘phantom energy’ (the energy used by appliances and equipment when they are switched off, but still remained plugged in to the mains).
• Track and repeat: After your actions have been given time to make a difference – a period of three months is usually recommended – monitor your energy consumption data once again to track your progress. This allows you to then identify new areas of potential energy wastage and the process can be repeated from step two continuously as you experience ongoing improvements.
Although these same principles and systems can also be applied domestically in your home, the typically larger scales involved with running a business usually mean energy management services produce better results when implemented commercially. However, whether you own a large business that consumes a significant amount of energy, an SME, or even a small start-up with relatively low energy operating costs, a sound business energy management plan – that makes use of sophisticated energy management services – allows companies across all sectors and industries to improve both economically and environmentally. This is largely thanks to the energy saving technologies that are installed with the aim of focusing on making more energy efficient use of premises and equipment.
What is an energy management system?
An energy management system (EMS) is an automated technological tool that can be installed to collect energy consumption data in a building or across an entire company. EMS’ produce helpful visuals and graphics, typically through the use of a smart online monitoring app, which can be easily analysed to highlight specific areas of a property, or a wider business, where energy is being wasted.
An EMS can take various forms and they differ greatly in terms of sophistication, from single-point devices that can provide a general energy usage overview to complex cross-functional systems that can manage energy across a number of buildings, spread over large facilities and even multiple sites. While a simple EMS may only be able to monitor specific areas of energy usage, when operated manually by an engineer using a central computer, sophisticated systems tend to be more automated. These EMS’ use sensors, monitoring points and intelligent actuators to automatically send data back to a central computer or app, flagging up unusual data and diagnosing potential problems instantly. Although systems do vary, commonly used EMS’ make use of:
- Programmable thermostats that allow for the temperature of a building or specific area to be adjusted automatically and dynamically.
- Automated timers that can switch lighting and electrical equipment on and off according to a usage schedule.
- Dynamic lighting controls that can regulate the levels of lighting in specific areas, dimming or increasing the amount of artificial light based on changing levels of natural light.
- Occupancy sensors that can detect whether or not people are present in a specific area by monitoring infrared heat signals and motion sensors, designed to control levels of required heating and lighting during off-peak hours.
Why is energy management important?
Energy management has become increasingly important, particularly commercially speaking, as businesses have become more interested in finding new ways for modern technology to aid in controlling costs and minimising carbon outputs. Additionally, implementing energy management policies is designed to improve corporate image, showing willing to embrace corporate social responsibility by becoming more energy efficient.
However, on the face of it, it’s simply the potential benefits attached to successfully executed business energy management strategies that makes the practice important. Key corporate advantages include:
- Reduced operating costs, thanks to strategically decreased energy usage.
- A smaller carbon footprint, showcasing greater corporate social responsibility.
- The ability to track utility costs more accurately, allowing you to create better and more accurate budgets and financial forecasts.
Offering both long and short-term benefits, smart energy management is not only a set of policies or larger strategies that help you save energy and money, it is also becoming an ingrained corporate culture or state of mind. When properly utilised, it can provide greater insight into the specific needs of your company and become a vital part of future business plans, budgets and forecasts.
Energy management vs. energy efficiency
Although the ideas involved in energy conservation and management certainly overlap in places, the two practices are fundamentally different. While it can be argued that the actions of businesses and homeowners who want to become more energy efficient do mirror the actions implemented as part of a corporate energy management strategy, energy efficiency plays only a small role in the overall, larger, and more comprehensive concept of energy management for businesses.
Energy efficiency is a phrase used to describe any form of power saving measure – from making the switch from traditional incandescent light bulbs to energy saving LEDs complete with motion sensor technology in your factory, to ensuring your thermostat regulates the temperature of your office dynamically as the weather changes outside. Making these efficiency alterations can help you cut energy use in your business and save you money in the process. However, if you are looking to streamline your business’ energy usage more thoroughly with a focus on maximising profits, going beyond basic energy efficiency techniques and into the realm of energy management services may be necessary.
As this guide has explored, business energy management relates to a process of monitoring, controlling and saving energy in a building or an organisation. With this in mind, it takes the concept of energy efficiency a step further by allowing you to tailor the saving actions you make based on actual data relating to your business’ specific consumption. Although it may take time to perfect, the art of well-utilised energy management can increase a company’s profits by minimising operating costs drastically. This bespoke aspect of energy management ultimately improves the economic competitiveness of the business far more effectively, and produces superior results that can’t be achieved through adopting simple energy efficiency techniques.