The best methods for energy monitoring combine data gathering with analysis, best practices, and implementation projects. The interest in energy monitoring has grown substantially in the past few years. Public utilities that provide energy have experienced a huge culture shift, moving away from a rather secretive culture to one of increased transparency to energy users. There is an international movement to increase the amount of information provided to consumers about their energy use, so they can implement changes to reduce their energy usage patterns.
The primary objective of energy monitoring is to reduce the waste of energy everywhere in the system. This includes energy production, transmission, and usage. However, the main area of waste has been identified as the end consumer. To help address this issue, a series of products have been developed to track energy usage.
In the residential sector, many public utilities are providing smart meters, which track actual energy usage by the hour. In some areas, excess usage within peak periods is charged at a higher rate. A report of energy usage is provided monthly or can be accessed online at any time. The purpose of this method of energy monitoring is to encourage people to change their habits and use energy at different times.
In the commercial or industrial sector, the data is collected electronically and provided online. In addition to information about actual usage, other factors are provided. They include outside temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and more. All these items have a definite impact on energy usage.
Analysis of the data collected over a period of time will result in possible areas of focus to reduce energy usage. For example, data gathered over a year may show increased energy costs in the winter. A review of the building insulation and room temperature settings may provide insight into the areas of energy loss. Additional analysis can be used to provide baseline energy requirements and define strategies to reduce these values.
Best practices vary by industry, but typically include scheduling of production activity over a longer time frame to avoid peaks and valleys in demand. Additional changes may include insulation upgrades, redefined processes, and a review of standard operations. The energy utilities often work closely with industry associations to establish acceptable baselines and encourage firms to reduce their energy usage to these levels.
Implementation projects can include the development of performance targets for energy management, using energy as a cost driver in business analysis, and incorporating actual energy costs in the cost analysis for new products. In many firms, these changes will require acceptance from a range of departments. Accounting needs to maintain the data, while other areas must be willing to change their practices to reduce energy usage.