Evaluating energy performance requires good information on how, when, and where energy is being used. Collecting and tracking this information is necessary for establishing baselines and managing energy use.
Organizations of all sizes have established systems for gathering and tracking energy use data. For commercial buildings ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager tracks energy use over time. In the case of industrial plants, the ENERGY STAR industry specific Energy Performance Indicator (EPI) can be used to track yearly energy use patterns. All or part of data collection and management can also be outsourced. Regardless of what method you use to gather and track data, consider the steps below.
The data must be complete and accurate because it will be used for analysis and goal setting. Consider the following when collecting energy use data:
- Determine appropriate level of detail — The level and scope of data collection will vary from organization to organization. Some may choose to collect data from submeters on individual processes while others may only look at a utility bill.
- Account for all energy sources — Inventory all energy purchased and generated on-site (electricity, gas, steam, waste fuels) in physical units (kWh, mMBtu, Mcf, lbs of steam, etc.) and on a cost basis.
- Document all energy uses — For the sources identified above, assemble energy bills, meter readings, and other use data.
- Energy data may reside in the accounting department, be held centrally or at each facility, or can be acquired by contacting the appropriate utilities or energy service providers.
- Gather at least two years of monthly data or a more frequent interval if available. Use the most recent data available.
- Collect facility and operational data — To be able to normalize and benchmark, it may be necessary to collect non-energy related data for all facilities and operations, such as building size, operating hours, etc.
Establish Tracking System
A system for tracking performance can range from a simple spreadsheet to detailed databases and IT systems. In developing an appropriate tracking system for your organization, consider the following:
- Scope — The design of your tracking system will be shaped, in large part, by the level and scope of information that will be tracked and the frequency of data collection.
- Maintenance — Tracking systems must be easy to use, update, and maintain.
- Reporting and communicating — Use tracking systems to communicate energy performance to other parts of the organization and motivate change. Consider developing formats that express energy performance information in ways that are easily understandable across the organization. A good tracking system should make such reporting easy!
- At a minimum, collect data by fuel type at an individual building or facility level
- Collect data from submeters, if possible
- Use actual, not estimated, use data, if possible
- Use data that is current and timely
- Use tracking systems to develop quarterly and annual reports that profile energy performance
- Use tracking systems to allow facilities to compare their performance to their peers
- Use an existing tracking system, such as ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager and Energy Performance Indicators (EPIs) to organize data and benchmark against the industry.
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General Motors Corporation — Good Tracking Pays
Establishing a tracking system requires an investment of time and money. But, once the system is in place, it can pay for itself by highlighting which facilities use the most energy, pointing to areas of greatest opportunity, and even identifying errors in utility bills, such as overcharges, that might have otherwise gone unnoticed and paid.
General Motors estimates that its tracking system, which took over $1 million to develop, has paid for itself multiple times.
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