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Measuring & Verifying Your Energy Performance

February 27, 2013 By Marc Karell

Marc Karell

For different reasons, we are reaching a “perfect storm” of the need for companies to implement a robust program to measure and verify environmental performance.

  • In the environmental sphere, many regulatory agencies have cut back and now expect facilities to rigorously self-monitor and report key compliance indicators.
  • In what can be considered a blend between environment and energy, new boiler MACT rules require certain boilers to monitor for combustion efficiency to demonstrate minimized emissions of pollutants, such as air toxics.
  • For energy, cost savings resulting in investments in energy-saving strategies need to be substantiated by measuring key energy efficiency parameters.
  • For green building, the USGBC, which oversees LEED, has changed emphasis to not just demonstrating implementation of green building upgrades, but requiring performance measurements to assure that upgrades are maintained for continuous green performance. LEED credits can be taken away and certification removed if proper verification of actions and performance is not performed.
  • Finally, monitoring is critical for demonstrating to management that your energy efficiency or sustainability strategies have met goals and/or saved money.

For all of these reasons, it is important for a facility to invest in measuring key activities and verifying their performance for continued cost savings or compliance. This has become its own category of work, known as Measuring & Verification or M&V.

Therefore, it is becoming more and more important for a company to devote proper resources and develop proper procedures for such an M&V program. For best results and to save money, M&V should be part of an organized, written program.

Verifying compliance, meeting goals and cost savings are important for many reasons. As intimated above, M&V can demonstrate compliance with applicable environmental rules beyond a doubt to reduce legal risk. M&V can be the proof to upper management, having devoted resources to a sustainability or energy efficiency program, that their decisions are justified. M&V can be used to prevent misunderstandings with consultants and ESCOs who may work on contingency of money saved. Some NGOs and agencies require M&V to determine certification of goals met and incentives earned.

Written M&V Plan

A formal, written M&V Plan should be prepared and approved by all parties (owner, ESCOs, equipment suppliers with performance guarantees, NGO, etc.) before the project begins. This plan should clearly list the parameters to be measured, when, for how long, and by what procedure. The methods that these measured parameters will be used to calculate energy and cost savings should be written, also. Potential issues that can come up in M&V work, such as equipment availability, data quality, changes in energy or building processes, etc. should be discussed, addressed, and finalized.

Putting the M&V Program Together

One useful source to get started in developing a viable M&V program is the International Performance Monitoring and Verification Protocol (IPMVP) found in: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy02osti/31505.pdf. The key provisions of the IPMVP are:

  • Determine which key parameter(s) environmental compliance or an energy conservation measure (ECM) will depend on or affect when implemented to determine compliance or energy savings, such as combustion efficiency, kilowatt-hours of electricity or quantity of fuel used, etc. The parameter should be measured before and after the permit or regulation is addressed or ECM installation, taking into consideration site-specific conditions. Reviewing the data to determine compliance or inputting the data into and running an energy model or other means to determine the broad effects on energy usage throughout the building of the ECM may be necessary. Make sure baseline data is accurate.
  • Then determine the best way to measure this parameter. Can the parameter be isolated around the ECM or specific equipment? Or must you must measure, for example, a whole building’s usage and determine a correlation to the ECM or environmental parameter? Purchase the best equipment, if necessary, to measure the parameter. For example, improved, reliable monitors to measure combustion parameters (O2, CO) exist; make sure it is heavy duty to function long-term in a boiler or industrial application. Make sure to procure and implement the proper software to collect and treat data and develop the proper reports for internal and/or agency reporting purposes.
  • Determine, measure, and record the chosen energy-related parameter for the ECM as accurately as possible. Do you have the proper equipment to measure and record the parameter accurately, such as usage meters, proper software?

While the protocol focuses on energy savings, the same M&V approach can be directed to compliance. Be sure to understand the necessary parameter to prove compliance; understand fully the regulations and make sure your permit reflects this. Determine which parameters correlate with compliance; it should be contained in the permit. Make sure the regulatory agency agrees. Determine the most accurate/cost-effective way to measure/record the parameter and determine how to communicate this to the agency.

Remember that activities are never static, so be aware to review and possibly change your M&V program. I had a client that implemented many ECMs, such as lighting, windows, insulation, to reduce fuel and electricity usage. The building owner leased out an unused part of his building to a manufacturing operation during the upgrades. Added efforts were needed to estimate likely energy savings due to the ECMs alone.

Marc Karell is the owner of Climate Change & Environmental Services. CCES has the experience and expertise to help you both perform an environmental compliance audit or an energy efficiency upgrade to save you money and to manage the M&V program to help you demonstrate your compliance or calculate cost savings to meet the goals your company has. All this to save you money and to make your life easier and reduce your risk and demonstrate progress. Great stuff. Give us a call today or contact me at karell@CCESworld.com.



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