This article was co-authored by Leyna O’Neill, marketing coordinator at Bright Power.
For decades, building owners and managers have had a reactive approach to energy usage, exemplified by the typical practice of adding 5 percent to last year’s costs in order to create next year’s budget. Today, more and more owners and managers recognize the need to get proactive about their energy usage. That means adopting a strategic approach to energy management, deliberately and continuously monitoring and improving energy consumption. To make this shift, the first step is to measure your usage. This starts with utility bills.
Local governments also recognize utility bills as a gold mine of useful information. An increasing number of cities across the US — including New York, Boston, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Austin, Seattle and San Francisco — require building owners and managers to report and track their portfolio’s energy consumption. It’s the simple first step to any comprehensive energy management strategy.
So why are utility bills the best place to start?
Reason #1: Because there’s a treasure trove of information on a utility bill.
A utility bill can typically contain up to 120 data elements, from amount due and kWh consumed to detailed rates, tariffs and more. Even a few months of bills can paint a good picture of a particular building’s seasonal consumption habits and unlock opportunities to improve.
Analyzing the data from utility bills can highlight the best paths for reducing energy cost and consumption. Would my building benefit from switching tariffs? Should I consider lighting upgrades? Which buildings in my portfolio need the most improvement and which ones should I model my others after? These are just a few examples of the questions that can be explored deeper with data from utility bills.
Reason #2: Because you don’t need to install any equipment to access this information.
Utility bills should be the first place to start in your energy management strategy because the data already arrives on a monthly basis, and there’s no need to install equipment or hardware to access it.
Reason #3: Because utility bills link cost and consumption data together.
Consumption data on its own is helpful in understanding usage patterns, seasonal energy needs and more, but financial costs are what really get executive-level attention. On the flip side, cost data on its own is also helpful, but without the consumption information, it’s difficult to compare between years (since rates change) or to identify the most likely areas for improvement. Utility bill data marries the two data elements and creates a more complete picture of what a building’s energy usage is and how much it is costing the organization.
Utility bills are a great source of data for both basic and advanced energy management practices. Because the data is rich with information and easy and inexpensive to acquire with companies that simplify utility bill data acquisition, utility bills provide an ideal starting point for most energy management programs.
Shira Weintraub is the customer and partner marketing manager for Urjanet. With a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and economics from Emory University, she is passionate about sustainability issues particularly in the context of corporate environmental impacts.
Leyna O’Neill is the marketing coordinator at Bright Power.