A victory for common sense? The concept of accurate measurement providing a sound foundation for effective management could not, under any circumstances be described as revolutionary.

It is an intrinsic part of all of our lives whether we are managing a business or the weekly shopping budget except, it would appear, until it comes to energy and water use. In these areas, we have until recently been reluctant to apply very much in the way of measurement, in the mistaken belief that it won’t make any difference.

In fact, the correct application of metering (i.e. measurement) is the single most effective strategy that can be applied as part of an overall energy management policy, and for a very specific reason. It is the only way in which energy efficiency can be maximised. Technologies such as low‑energy lighting, variable speed drives and high efficiency motors will all reduce consumption, but cannot in themselves eliminate leakage, wastage and sloppy working practices. Automatic controls such as occupancy sensing can do wonders for energy consumption provided they are not overridden but, without metering, who will ever know whether they are or not? In many cases the road to energy management nirvana is paved with good intentions brought to nought by the manual override switch!

Times however are changing and, in the form of aM&T (automatic Monitoring & Targeting), metering is now making its mark as a basic energy management tool rather than a last resort. aM&T combines the well proven analysis techniques of Monitoring & Targeting with automatic data acquisition from strategically placed meters, considerably enhancing the effectiveness of both.

aM&T is rather more than the sum of its parts, particularly in view of the much lower installed costs that recent advances in meter and networking technology have allowed. To repeat a sentence already used, it is the correct application of effective metering that has become a lot easier to achieve.

For aM&T to work, certain elements must be in place, and these can be simplified as the meter(s), the data acquisition system and the software. These elements must then work in harmony to collect interval data from the meter(s), and use it to highlight any deviations from best practice. 'Interval' data are fundamental, as it is only by reading a meter on a frequent basis (usually every 30 minutes) that tight control of consumption can be maintained. This is illustrated in very simple terms by the 'top hat' graph. The availability of interval data allows all elements of the daily consumption profile to be optimised. Baseload is squeezed down, start and finish times are tightly controlled, and peak loads are reduced by demand management. None of this is easily achievable with a daily or weekly meter reading because cause and effect cannot be properly reviewed.

Such examples make a clear case for aM&T. Systems are more cost-effective than they have ever been thanks to new technology and flexible networking options, and the increased availability of existing meters in new-build applications. Part L2 of the current Building Regulations requires meters to be installed to provide information on energy usage by specific plant and equipment and/or by floor area. This means that although the regulations do not stipulate that such meters must be automatically read, the fact that they are there at all significantly reduces the cost of implementing aM&T in these areas. Also, the cost of aM&T hardware has fallen dramatically and continues to do so. Meters (particularly electricity meters) are cheaper than ever before, as are the data acquisition systems needed to read them. It is also a fact that the latest advances in networking technology,  from GSM modems to low power radio to ethernet/intranet interfaces, have significantly reduced installation costs and made it easier to read previously ‘difficult’ devices such as remotely sited water meters. Finally, the ability of M&T software to operate in an internet environment has removed virtually all the restrictions to the effective dissemination of important information. Alarms can be sent by email; meters can link directly to the web ‑ it’s all a far cry from the clipboard and pen!

The cost of implementation, therefore, particularly when viewed in the context of the projected savings, is low. Depending on the type of site, achievable savings are officially between 8% and 20% and, as prices are rising, actual (as opposed to percentage) savings are rising with them. In fact, upward pressure on energy cost is coming from a number of areas, both direct and indirect. All businesses are struggling with steep price rises and the Climate Change Levy but many will also have to get to grips with the EU Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings, which must be implemented by January 2006. This requires a whole raft of improvements in efficiency as part of our overall commitment to a lower carbon economy, all of which will be harder to demonstrate, never mind achieve, without aM&T.

The impact of the Directive will vary from business to business, whereas the effect of a 40% increase in gas prices is more ’universal’, but it is nevertheless clear that aM&T does not conform to a ‘one size fits all’ implementation policy. It is easy to tailor however and, in simple terms, the smaller the combined utility bill, the fewer (if any) additional meters are required and the simpler the data acquisition becomes. The ‘Business Case’ graph shows how this works out in the majority of cases, and how the ‘threshold’ drops where multiple sites (and therefore more data) are involved. The rule of thumb says that single sites with a utility bill of over £10k p.a. benefit from an aM&T system reading their primary (tariff) meters, and that once the bill reaches £50k p.a. some secondary (sub) meters will be needed. The achievable savings should produce sub two‑year paybacks in both of these situations, as can be seen from the graph. Where the business comprises multiple sites the business case becomes even easier to make. aM&T systems also qualify for the Enhanced Capital Allowance tax break – another strong indication of their effectiveness ‑ providing another 6% of effective discount on the installed cost.

There is therefore a bewildering number of reasons to install aM&T! There are government incentives, there is the proven track record In achieving savings of up to 20%, there is the (very necessary) fast payback, and for all these reasons the business case has never been easier to make. But there is something else. There is common sense. There is the realisation that is collectively dawning on us that utility usage must be measured in sufficient detail to allow it to be managed. Consumption can be controlled, efficiency can be improved and costs can be reduced, but none of this can be achieved (or maintained to its fullest extent) without measurement. In the past it may have been too difficult or too expensive to carry out, but that was then and this is now. Now we can measure, and we can manage.

(Article by Bill Gysin, reprinted with the permission of ESTA)


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