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Energy Management Systems 2.0

January 9, 2014 By Martin Flusberg

Martin Flusberg

Capturing the Paradigm Shift

The term Energy Management System, or EMS, is oft used, but can mean very different things to different people.

For example, the terms EMS and BMS (Building Management System) are frequently used interchangeably. But that can be very misleading. BMS systems are generally hardware-based control systems responsible for controlling HVAC and perhaps lighting loads in commercial and industrial facilities. At some point, BMS systems were the only form of EMS systems out there. But in recent years there have been a wide range of new product entrants that are also generally referred to as EMS. These could be as disparate as: analytics-based software systems that connect to the BMS and mine the data to identify equipment problems and savings opportunities; software systems that capture utility billing data across all facilities in a portfolio and offer analysis aimed at finding billing problems as well as facility benchmarks; combined hardware and software systems that remotely control HVAC over the Internet; systems that monitor electricity usage on branch circuits and provide analytics around equipment performance and energy efficiency; and software that leverages interval data and modeling to provide a virtual energy audit and suggest efficiency measures. Demand-response systems are sometimes referred to as energy management systems, and there are probably a range of other examples as well.

Paul Baier and Groom Energy have been helping the discussion by trying to define Enterprise Energy Management Software (EEMS). According to their blog, an EEMS must:

  • meet the need of senior management (especially the CFO) to achieve stated energy improvement goals
  • provide P&L owners with visibility into past, current and expected energy use and costs
  • track energy reduction projects and expected benefits
  • provide insights from interval data
  • support the maintenance team

Interestingly, they do not mention control as part of enterprise energy management, even though a provider of a control systems would certainly refer to their systems as an EMS.

Clearly there has been a huge evolution and broadening of the EMS market. Internet connectivity and cloud-based storage has dramatically changed what is expected of a controls-focused EMS. Low cost sensors and wireless communications have dramatically decreased deployment costs. Analytics have created a range of new value opportunities. And aggregating data to the enterprise level provides visibility that did not exist before.

I would suggest is that there is a paradigm shift coming, in which we will move away from calling a range of very different types of systems “EMS”, to an encompassing “all of the above” definition. Let’s call this EMS 2.0. There is a convergence of functionality coming from a variety of different directions, such as a provider of traditional BMS systems that has added Internet connectivity and web-based software, a provider of internet thermostats that has added granular monitoring and analytics, or a provider of interval data (a legacy of EMS 1.0 terminology?) that has added utility bill data. EMS 2.0 encompasses all of these functions in a single, effective application.

By my definition, EMS 2.0 is characterized by the following:

  • Cost-effective – incorporating state-of-the-art components and approaches that drive costs well below historic EMS industry norms
  • Connected – by definition, EMS 2.0 must have full remote connectivity and be accessible over the Internet and on mobile devices
  • Accessible –gone are the days where you need to contact your vendor to change temperature settings; if it’s that hard to use, it’s not EMS 2.0
  • Intelligent – EMS 2.0 must incorporate a range of analytics to drive cost reduction strategies
  • Comprehensive – EMS 2.0 includes a combination of controls, analytics, dashboards, multiple sets of data and a range of other functionality. It may not be necessary to reflect all of the EEMS functions noted by Groom Energy, but point solutions are not EMS 2.0
  • Operationally focused – EMS 2.0 must have a broader focus than just energy. Businesses do not buy kilowatt hours and therms because they want them; they buy them to feed the hungry equipment beasts. To most effectively manage energy, EMS 2.0 needs to play a key role in managing equipment and its use
  • Enterprise-ready – EMS 2.0 must offer a full complement of enterprise functionality, from enterprise-wide control settings to facility benchmarking to equipment benchmarking

Of course, what may be needed for a portfolio of large commercial buildings is not the same as what is needed in industrial facilities, and is different from the most effective system for small box retail. Therefore, there can never be a one-size fits all solution. But, EMS 2.0 needs to reflect a more holistic approach than traditional EMS systems, while still tailored to each individual market.

Given the current confusion about what constitutes an EMS, we may need to move away from the term EMS itself to convey that EMS 2.0 is an entirely new breed. Some of the names we’ve heard bandied about recently are:

–EMIS (Energy Management and Information Systems)

–EIS (Energy Information Systems)

–EEMIS (Enterprise Energy Management and Information Systems)

–EnMS (Energy Management System that includes operational management)

–EEM (Enterprise Energy Management)

Do any of these accomplish this paradigm shift?

Enterprise.  Energy.  Equipment.   E3MS anyone?

If you have any ideas for a new name, or have any comments on these, please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

 Martin Flusberg is CEO of Powerhouse Dynamics. Martin has spent most of his career developing innovative technologies that address climate change; the first half in transportation and the second half in energy. Most recently, he was co-founder and President of Nexus Energy Software, a pioneer in delivering on-line energy and carbon analysis to consumers and businesses. Nexus — sold to ESCO Technologies (NYSE:ESE) in 2005 and now part of Aclara Technologies — evolved into a global provider of software solutions to the utility industry focusing on smart grid, smart meter, energy efficiency and demand-response. Martin was CEO of software companies Multisystems, Inc. and REALink SystemsCorp. and ran an energy software unit of TASC. that later became Lodestar Corp., since acquired by Oracle. He has also served on the faculty of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. Martin has an MSCE from MIT and a BEE from City University of New York.



4 comments on “Energy Management Systems 2.0

  1. This is a great article highlighting the misuse of the term Energy Management System, or EMS but can mean very different things to different people. Enterprise Energy Management Software (EEMS) implies control as well as monitoring and analytics thus providing a comprehensive system. All of these features are available with the Intelligent Building Information System (IBIS) used by several major organizations managing energy across the enterprise and transforming their data from disparate systems into actionable information used to automate savings within the transformed Smart Building. No limits to how you can implement integrated sequences of operation within this system! http://www.ibs-cal.com

  2. You are missing a few large issues that arejust now starting to be addressed.
    1. The convergence of protocols in the BAS world (see announcements at upcoming ASHREA show)
    2. The migration away from custom developed environments specifically for building automation management to standard database driven solutions.
    3. The importance of reliable data not the continued acceptance of the standard poor quality of BAS data.

    There are many more developments that will drive the convergence of IT and automation down from the industrial world and up from the residential world into commercial building solutions.

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