Whether you’re a for-profit business or a non-profit municipality, your bottom line matters. Your bottom line determines whether or not you continue in your glorious mission.
For many organizations, the number one controllable operating expense is energy. Their mission is not to spend money on energy, but their bottom line is largely impacted by energy costs. An organization with a healthy bottom line cannot disregard energy costs. It must seek to reduce them. It goes to war against energy waste.
Fighting for energy savings is a war fought on many fronts—lowering lamp wattages, installing automated building control systems, and replacing inefficient equipment are commonplace strategies that play a role in most energy management systems. Yet many building owners are surprised to learn there is an overlooked area that can yield remarkable cost avoidance at a fraction of the price of retrofits and automation hardware.
Energy Management Software
Energy management software is a highly economical tool in the cost reduction war. Sometimes called energy accounting, energy information, energy efficiency, or energy tracking software, these programs are fundamentally a database of your utility bills.
It might seem like a simple matter to throw together a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that tracks your monthly electric bill, and it is—if you only receive a bill or two. However, building owners who receive hundreds or thousands of bills a month need specialized software to zero in on problems and highlight potential cost savings.
Energy management software has been gaining popularity for almost 30 years. The first software to win widespread industry adoption wasfirst released in 1982. As PCs became more prevalent in business, building owners found that software was indispensable in combating energy waste.
As with most software applications, there are numerous vendors and a wide range of products—from simple spreadsheet-like programs that are low cost but offer few features, to powerful and pricey applications for Fortune 1000 corporations and large government agencies. Even free online tools are now available for energy managers at www.FreeEnergyManagerTools.com.
So what exactly does energy management software do? “Energy tracking” says it best. Energy management software tracks utility bills, and in doing so spots abnormal trends and suspected billing and metering errors. Some programs also track 15-minute electric meter load data, which can provide valuable insights into near real-time usage patterns and expensive power leaks.
Ten Ways to Save
By compiling a database of utility bills, energy management software puts the power of information at your organization’s fingertips. Comprehensive energy management software ought to help you slash energy costs, comprehensively. Here are ten ways energy management software protects your bottom line:
- Eliminate Billing Errors. Utility companies aren’t perfect—mistakes happen. One software spotted an $873,000 over-billing that resulted in a one million dollar refund.
- Fast Processing of Utility Invoices. National chains and large property managers who receive thousands of monthly utility invoices can use in-house software to rapidly process bills via manual entry and EDI for under $2. One retailer saves $380,000 a year.
- Make Wise Energy Purchase Decisions. Customer Choice programs save money by letting you select the lowest-cost vendors, generators and producers, but they require accurate energy use data. Software gives you information to make the best choices.
- Submetering, Cost Allocation, and Re-Billing. Managing the cost accounting for a large university-owned utility system is a complex and difficult task. Software gives you a single tool for submeter readings, virtual accounts, tariffs, cost allocation, and reporting.
- Uncover Account Ownership Errors. Are you paying for someone else’s energy? It sounds simple enough, yet large organizations often find they’re still paying for former leased space. One hospital chain didn’t notice a $15,000 error for eight years.
- Motivate Occupants to Conserve. Your dilemma—you have thousands of switches and thermostats, yet the occupants control them. Software reports show saving energy is important, and you’re monitoring your occupants’ energy consumption.
- Identify Building Control Problems, Inefficient Facilities, and Spot Leaks. You can’t manage what you can’t see. Interval data charts, benchmarks, trends, profiles, and comparisons help you identify inefficient facilities. Also, interface with ENERGY STAR.
- Track and Report Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Green Energy Credits. Ninety percent of greenhouse gases come from energy usage, so the software is the perfect platform for carbon tracking and reporting. Comprehensive features allow for organization-wide greenhouse gas tracking.
- Perform Energy Savings Measurement and Verification. Performance Contracting is the preferred method for energy retrofit projects, but not without accurate and timely “cost avoidance” reports.
- Improve Budgeting, Accruals, Accounting. The software’s cost and usage budget, forecasting, and accrual features save time and money on the tricky and often time-consuming tasks of utilities cost accounting and management.
It is a sure bet that over time, energy management software will save you far more than what it costs. This is good news in your war on energy waste…and for your bottom line.
Steve Heinz is a Certified Energy Manager with more than 35 years of professional experience in energy accounting and engineering. He is the CEO and Founder of EnergyCAP, Inc., which publishes EnergyCAP energy management software. In January 2013, Steve is starting an Energy Leader Webinar Series at www.EnergyCAP.com/webinar. Since 1980, Steve’s software products have served more accounts, meters, buildings, and clients than any other energy tracking system or service.