Why do energy savings deteriorate after a project is completed and handed over?
With much enthusiasm, you and your Sustainability Team have set an ambitious target for delivering emission reductions for your organisation. Senior management have approved your project, and you've engaged an energy efficiency provider who has delivered your upgrade. In the first year, the project is tracking to clear the organisations sustainability targets and everyone is ecstatic. Year two comes around and the savings are noticeably declining. Some of the systems aren’t operating as they should be, and emission reduction targets are no longer being achieved. The senior management want to know why the utility bills haven’t reduced as much as it was promised.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon story. Why?
Firstly, energy efficiency is not a set and forget process. Buildings are dynamic spaces, made up of dynamic systems. Some may argue that renewable energy trumps efficiency in this regard. However, with the most popular renewable energy sources, you are subject to the dynamics of nature, sun shining or wind blowing. Irrespective of what the weather is doing outside, energy efficiency is delivering inside.
Secondly, maintenance of newly installed energy efficiency systems is often overlooked. It is assumed that the existing facility management team will have the skills, time and resources to maintain and operate these new systems.
How does a Sustainability Team enable ongoing savings?
The first step is to clearly understand the maintenance requirements and responsibilities for new energy efficiency systems. Particularly for complex systems such as Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) or cogeneration. Whilst outsourcing maintenance may increase the project costs, if it delivers more certainty in energy savings, it can be worthwhile.
Changing the behaviour of facility managers to adopt energy efficiency best practice is a challenging hurdle. Especially if they are under resourced, not appropriately trained, or are used to their way of facility management. The frustrated response is ‘tell them to change their behaviour and start operating the systems in line with energy efficiency best practice’. Behaviour change is a great concept, if you’re not the one whose behaviour is being changed.
A skilled and committed facility management team is essential for ongoing energy savings. So, how do your overcome this hurdle? Well, research shows that the two key drivers to behaviour change are:
- Make it easy to do
- Show other people doing it
1. Make it easy to do
There are two products that are available that can make ongoing energy savings much easier to achieve. They are ‘energy intelligence/analytics’ and fault detection and diagnostic platforms.
Energy intelligence/analytics systems can detect any anomalies in your energy consumption and provide feedback on a very fast turnaround. This is much better than waiting until after you receive an energy bill and realise something has gone wrong. These systems will model the facility energy consumption against key metrics (weather, occupancy, production etc.) and alert you via email or SMS if there’s an unexpected variation. More advanced systems may also advise what equipment may have caused that unexpected change. The advantage of these systems over typical facility management processes is that they provide the opportunity to rectify energy ‘leaks’ quickly, and facility managers don’t need to spend hours trawling through spreadsheets to figure out what happened a month ago.
Energy intelligence/analytic systems are typically offered with an upfront setup cost and an ongoing monthly subscription.
Fault Detection and Diagnostic (FDD) systems can provide more detailed insights into a facility’s operation. A FDD system will monitor individual pieces of equipment or systems within your facility. Faults are detected automatically, and a report diagnosing the problem (and action required to rectify) is issued. An example is a stuck open valve, which causes the air-conditioning to over cool the space. This may result in the heating system warming the space back to an acceptable temperature. There won't be any complaints about the space temperature but there’s a huge amount of energy being wasted.
FDD systems are generally more expensive than energy analytics but can provide more granular insights for the facility management team.
Make it easy for your facility management team: use energy analytics and fault detection systems.
2. Show other people doing it
Look for specific examples of similar facilities to your own that have a committed facility management team that are achieving great sustainability results. In the commercial office space, buildings with 5+ star NABERS ratings are a good starting point. Organise for your facility team to do a tour with the facility managers of these high performing buildings. Show them that there are other facility managers achieving great things.
Also, providers of energy analytics and FDD systems will more than gladly share case studies of the successful projects that they have worked on. Ask if your team could tour one of the buildings where your provider's system has been implemented, and talk to the staff that use the system daily.
After all the hard work to get an energy efficiency project implemented, it is disheartening to see the savings not delivered. A facility management team appropriately resourced and skilled will breathe life into your project for years to come.
Interested in Energy Analytics or a Fault Detection & Diagnostic system but not sure where to start. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.