Energy Efficiency  -  July 29, 2019 - By Gavin Platt, Lucid

Making the Case for Energy Management Information Systems

There’s hidden potential for energy savings in your buildings, but how do you tap into it?

As a report published by the Institute for Market Transformation points out, energy represents a substantial part of an office building’s operating expenses—approximately one third, in fact. By modernizing your energy management strategy, you can reap positive results, like reducing utility spend, improving net operating income, and increasing the value of the building asset. You’re also more likely to get a green certification, which is both environmentally responsible and attractive to potential investors.1

Take a cue from forward-thinking energy managers. These innovators are learning to harness the power of building data in Energy Management Information Systems (EMIS) to activate a modern energy management program. Increasingly, organizations of all sizes across multiple sectors—from universities to global enterprises—are adopting a cloud-based EMIS, which serves as a unified platform for core energy analytics and benchmarking and for data-driven decision-making. By putting your building data to work, you could realize as much as 20% energy savings.

An EMIS marshals the power of your building data for modern energy managers to identify opportunities for savings, which drive down energy costs and optimize operations. Whether you’re looking to meet environmental sustainability targets, achieve savings through energy efficiency, or both, an EMIS is an essential tool for achieving your energy goals and improving your bottom line.

What is an EMIS, and why do you need one?
An EMIS is a set of tools and services that help streamline management of commercial building energy use at both the meter level and the system level. These technologies store, analyze, and display energy usage and system data. Real-time energy data for an entire building is accessible via a web-based interface that has a rich set of visualization capabilities. An EMIS provides automated energy analytics to help owners, facility and energy managers, and operators measure and uncover inefficiencies almost immediately. It can be a critical driver for setting priorities that will help improve energy performance and result in significant savings over time.

A report published by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory succinctly summarizes the advantages of an EMIS: “Using an EMIS to track energy metrics provides a number of benefits, including finding and fixing problems more quickly, ensuring efficiency investments pay off, and recommending energy performance improvements. EMIS also gives organizations an overall better understanding of energy use.”2

How much can you expect to save?
While every building and every organization is unique, it’s been proven that an EMIS can substantially cut energy costs. A research project sponsored by the U.S Department of Energy (DOE) tracked 27 organizations with a combined 679 buildings spanning 94 million square feet. The DOE discovered that most organizations, on average, realized a 4% reduction in energy use just one year after implementing an EMIS. The DOE projects that, after four years, organizations will see an average of 19% in energy savings.

Another example that underscores the benefits of an EMIS is Weber State University, based in Utah. This four-year undergraduate university has its sights set on 2050 to achieve complete carbon neutrality. The Energy & Sustainability Office saw the value of deploying an EMIS and did something unique and unusual: it borrowed from the university’s general cash fund to pay for it. Terms for paying back the loan included 3% interest accrued from the energy savings. After year one, the Energy & Sustainability Office not only paid back the loan with 3% interest but also had a $5 million surplus of funds from energy savings that it is now funneling into energy efficiency projects.3

How to Build a Business Case
Now that you see the value of an EMIS in terms of energy savings, getting buy-in from executive management—which translates to approval for funding—is the next step. DOE research and real-world examples provide tangible and meaningful evidence to help you build your case.

But, in addition to these touchpoints, here are some helpful tips from Kyle Hendricks, senior energy and sustainability manager with CBRE Global Workplace Solutions. He and his team lead the energy and sustainability teams for the real estate portfolio of McKesson, a global Fortune 10 distributor of medical projects. CBRE Global Workplace Solutions has successfully used an EMIS to gather data and insights that drive energy savings. In a recent Smart Energy Decisions webinar, he provides these recommendations:

Convince the executive team that EMIS is an essential operational tool: Show them that an EMIS is every bit as important as an accounting system or building management system and that it is essential for energy and sustainability success.

  • Capture stakeholder mindshare: Get everyone on board by sharing monthly and quarterly reports and highlighting the insights gathered from the analytics.
  • Build the cost of an EMIS into an energy program: An EMIS alone won’t deliver return on investment (ROI), but it’s invaluable when it comes to identifying opportunities that you can act on. Plus, it measures and tracks the success of your initiatives.

 When you add it all up, an EMIS pays for itself in a short time and builds a great story that supports a long-term vision of sustainability and energy savings.

Gavin is VP of Design and co-founder of Lucid, a pioneer in commercial building data centralization and dashboard reporting tools. Today he leads the design and solution architecture of Lucid’s BuildingOS. Gavin has spent the past 15 years creating innovative web experiences for some of the world's leading companies and institutions. A recipient of the Adobe MAX Award and International Green Award, Gavin holds a BA in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College.

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