The emergence of sophisticated technical tools such as the Internet of Things (IoT) is a watershed in the history of energy management. The platforms that now are available make it possible, in essence, to move up the stack from managing individual devices and their localized ecosystems to managing multiple systems in a coordinated way.
This is an important step that can lead to financial savings and more environmentally sound operations. Scott Tew, the Executive Director of the Center for Efficiency & Sustainability (CEES) at Ingersoll Rand, told Energy Manager Today that coordinated system management can be within a building or extend to groups of buildings, such as college campuses. The capability to manage at this level can drive energy efficiency to new heights.
One is the powerful [keys] of the IoT is connected solutions, as we call it. It is directly tied to energy use and efficiency. It takes advantage of existing technology like BIM [building information modeling] but does more than that. It is using the technology in new and different ways. Energy managers are sensing the power of these connected solutions. Some [like it] because it automates their job, some because it offers new ways to analyze energy and some because it gives them brand new insights into ways to manage energy
The type of system to which Tew refers can be mechanical systems such as HVAC, systems that track tracking occupant behavior (such as sensors that turn lights on and off in rest rooms) or others from one or several buildings. The sum is greater than the parts: Getting these systems to work in unison results in far deeper benefits than optimizing them in isolation. These can be further correlated with more esoteric measurements, such as long term weather forecasts. “What we have now is the next frontier for energy,” Tew said. “It’s not something that we should fear. It is something that we should embrace.”
The most significant challenge to reaching this goal may be more human than technological. The first step, Tew said, is for energy managers and the people to whom they report to stop thinking in discrete technologies. Rather, must think in systems and interconnected building (and campus) elements. This is a particularly big challenge, he said, because one of the isolated upgrades – LED retrofits and upgrades – can produce a quick and significant boost to the bottom line.
Saving money by installing LEDs is a good thing, of course. Tew point is that doing so may give decision makers the idea that they have done enough and more fundamental changes are unnecessary. “Sometimes they bypass the audit and go right to lighting,” he said. “That negates the rest of the options, the efficiency gains at the system level.”
To Tew, the audit is a like a physical examination. A person, he said, doesn’t get an annual physical that looks just at his or her heart, eyesight or hearing. It is a system-wide view that measures the entire patient. “The audit needs to be more than just components,” Tew said. “It needs be all components — HVAC, lighting, windows or occupancy sensors [and others] and look at how you [control] all of those things to gain even more efficiencies.”
An important step in moving from the individual technology to the system level is to engage employees. “You can’t forget the people inside the building,” Tew said. “Employees have to be energy ambassadors alongside the energy managers. They are a tremendous resource with ideas around energy savings.”
Last month, Ingersoll Rand was named to 2016 Dow Jones Sustainability World and North America Indices for a sixth consecutive year.