Energy and sustainability management company Ecova was rebranded as Engie Insight in late January. Although the name changed, their focus stayed laser-sharp. The company is known for using data to help multi-site customers reduce their resource consumption and realize financial savings.
A water-saving project that the company completed with Powerhouse Dynamics and Weathermatic for Arby’s won a 2016 Environmental Leader Award. The judges called it a good example of using data to recognize a potential vulnerability, working with partners to identify a technical solution, and implementing the solution to drive significant savings.
Their long list of clients includes Caesars Entertainment, the Krystal Company, California Pizza Kitchen, Shari’s restaurants, and CKE Restaurants, which owns Hardees and Carl’s Jr. “We help them understand what they can do with the data, how to make sense out of it,” says Mathias Lelievre, Engie Insight’s chief executive officer.
Recently we caught up with Lelievre to find out how data informs resource-saving projects, and what the Internet of Things could mean for facilities management.
How are sustainability strategies changing, especially for your clients?
Today we look at the market from the question of how companies are going to monitor and act on sustainability — less a “nice to have” strategy and more the core of their business. Middle-term and long-term, everybody will have to answer critical questions: How do I stay true to my mission? How do I grow while at the same time diminishing my resources consumption: water, energy, gas, electricity, oil. How do I quickly monitor the level of environmental impact I have today, and put in place objectives and projects to decrease that?
What role does data play for your clients?
The challenge, especially for clients who have a lot of facilities and very widespread footprints, not only in North America but globally, is having a clear vision about their key resource consumption. Today, that data comes from critical consumption points through utility bills. Our database increases every year by more than 200 million data points.
We leverage all of those data points to detect potential savings. For Shari’s restaurants, we were able to identify key projects that have an impact on their consumption. There could be 25% savings by temporarily turning down some boilers during off-peak hours. We also saw potential savings from putting in Energy Star-qualified dishwasher systems and new dipper wells to clean ice cream scoops. We reduced energy consumption by 5% just by putting in place those kinds of items.
We do the same for water. With Shari’s, we helped them over 8 million gallons of water per year — hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings — through equipment audits.
How do clients go from getting the data to actually implementing projects?
The way we manage bills, we have a critical look at a given bill and say, is that amount correct? Does that point of consumption make sense if we take the weather, the history of consumption, and the benchmark of similar facilities into account? Then we identify savings opportunities and potential mistakes made on a given bill. We are managing 1.3 million bills per month so it’s a lot of volume coming in every day.
There is a second process, more on the advisory side. We look at the platform, which is also accessible to our clients, that has all the inputs gathered together. You have a holistic view of the consumption data related to the client’s facilities, and you can start analyzing it systematically.
From there we can help apply business cases. Does it make sense to diversify energy procurement to include more renewables? Let’s say they are above the benchmark for given facilities in their portfolio. A project to reduce the overall consumption would make sense. We know the kind of facilities, we know the energy consumption profile. The mathematics prove the business case.
Are there trends you’re noticing with facilities data?
What’s surprising here is the level of complexity behind the value proposition and partnership with clients. It’s coming from the utility space. As soon as you get a lot of facilities, there is concern about effectively monitoring resource consumption and acting upon it. I don’t see that level of complexity going down.
With the IoT coming in, more data will be real-time. You can find more projects for a client that will result in savings, less consumption, and have a great impact. That’s a sign of hope despite the challenges we have with global warming and climate change.
Where do you see the Internet of Things going?
Today, when I’m describing resource consumption, we understand that through data points coming through bills. It’s once every two weeks and once every month for each account. Imagine what the IoT can bring in terms of real-time data.
When we monitor water consumption, we are able to detect leaks. We see a point of consumption that doesn’t make sense given the history of consumption at that site and the benchmark. By calling the utility and the client, we understand that there is a leak, but maybe two weeks afterward. With the IoT, are we going to be able to track that in real time so that we could be more proactive? That’s putting trackers on devices to make sure these data points are tracked more effectively — and earlier.
The same with energy consumption. The IoT can create a lot of value, so we are building business cases around that. If you increase the number of data points, you increase the complexity of the design. Making sense of the data requires technology and expertise, too.
What does the future look like?
We believe that sustainable resource management will become more strategic. To be the leader of that area, we need to manage more real live data from the IoT. We also need to bring all this innovation to clients, and make sure we can suggest the right projects. That’s the way we see the future, and that’s where we want to make a difference.
The Environmental Leader Conference & Energy Manager Summit takes place May 15 – 17, 2018 at the Denver Marriott Tech Center. More information here.