Information fuels energy management

B. James Halpern

Measuring & Monitoring Services Inc.

Information fuels the energy business for both sellers and buyers. Effectively packaged information, such as load profiling, helps them directly meet many of the challenges of deregulated markets-from easily and profitably buying and selling power to better managing facilities and energy usage.

The information needs of energy customers in today`s market are increasingly complex. They include load usage profiles in real time, automated reporting, energy-use benchmarking tools, alarm functions, guidance on market developments, assistance in preparing bids, and soliciting and negotiating offers for power. Providing customers with this information presents great opportunity to suppliers and service companies, and challenges energy users to become informed consumers.

Customer load profiles provide much of this information. Simply put, load profiles are views of energy consumption measurements taken over time-the flow of electricity, gas or water through circuits or lines measured by sensors; the data gathered by measuring and monitoring equipment and then transmitted to on-site or central monitoring stations where they are processed and transformed into useful management information and reports.

These proprietary reports are available to customers in both print and via the Internet on the password-protected, interactive web sites of independent measuring and monitoring companies and energy marketers. Customers also can electronically transmit load profiles to power suppliers and brokers, helping them match supply needs with the best energy options.

Traditionally, suppliers measured consumption with a main meter and based customer invoices on total usage. But for richer, more in-depth information, suppliers and energy managers now use submeters within commercial, industrial and institutional facilities to profile consumption by department, tenant, lighting circuit, production line, or individual piece of equipment.

Load profiling helps suppliers sell or resell energy in a more efficient and profitable way. End-users profile their energy consumption to negotiate power purchases and adjust energy use patterns to take advantage of cost-saving tariffs and identify energy-wasting equipment for priority replacement.

Profiles for purchasing

When actual load profiles match consumption curves based on energy purchase agreements, sellers and buyers win or lose depending on whether the actual profiles fit within the anticipated curves.

If sellers and buyers have accurate load profiles when negotiating purchase agreements, they can efficiently buy and deliver power to meet facility requirements. Without a profile, purchase agreements are often based on averages of how similar facilities (e.g., office buildings or hospitals) consume power.

However many facilities` actual energy consumption doesn`t fit the averages. Additional variables-refurbished equipment that alters historical loads, changed operating schedules, the weather, and the business forecast-can affect future demand. This means someone has to pay for the risks associated with not having detailed load profiles and a good crystal ball.

By consuming power as anticipated in the agreement, customers avoid peak demand or other “misusage” charges. Suppliers reduce the risk of having to purchase power at higher prices and either absorb the additional cost or pass it on to their customers. The actual load remaining within the boundaries is the much-sought-after, win-win usage curve. A load profile of a customer`s actual usage dramatically increases the probability of this mutually beneficial situation. By straying above the boundary, even for a short period, more expensive peak or spot pricing results, and the energy bill increases. Even if the total consumption over the measured period stays within the contracted amount, straying from the anticipated usage profile still increases the bill.

Load profiles show energy managers how usage at certain times exceeds the rate class boundary. Load shedding steps, such as rescheduling the use of some equipment, can be implemented to keep the load within the boundaries. The potential savings from the effective use of load profiling even benefits smaller commercial, industrial and institutional energy users with utility bills as low as $3,000 per month.

To more effectively design an energy purchase contract with load profiling and submetering:

– Confirm current use and rates;

– Find out if refurbished equipment has changed historical patterns;

– Determine stability of schedules;

– Segregate loads and quantify magnitude;

– Access weather induced discrepancies;

– Create load profiles.

Knowledge is power

Accurate load profiling, of course, requires metering. Even if the utility still owns the main meter, customers can install their own. As occurred with the deregulation of the telecommunications industry, energy end-users are becoming knowledgeable about deregulation and how to access current information sources.

Coming with deregulation is a new breed of metering options and services, including: automated meter reading; performance-based amortization; aggregating databases; online retrieval of information; and online purchasing.

Tables 1 (Summer peak day) and 2 (Which is the best deal?) provide good examples of how load data can be used. The submetered profile in Table 1 shows consumption of electricity in kilowatts by a manufacturing facility`s production processes, lighting, HVAC and other systems over a 24-hour period.

From this profile, the energy manager determines the facility`s peak demand hours occur between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Since these are the peak demand and highest tariff rate hours (over 10 times the rate from midnight to 7 a.m.), the manager uses the profile to identify ways to reduce consumption or shed load during the day.

Submeters installed on lighting and HVAC systems break down consumption in such detail that the energy manager can make cost-effective and efficient improvements to the facility`s operation. Perhaps some production steps can be rescheduled to begin earlier in the day, or perhaps a daylighting retrofit-using more sunlight for workspace lighting-makes economic sense.

Load profiles also guide suppliers and end-users in purchasing electricity at the most advantageous rate tariffs. In the example, (Table 1) three options are available-the current tariff, time of use (TOU), and a flat rate. The profile, plus rate information from the tariffs, suggests that electricity should be purchased on the flat rate basis during maximum peak days-unless load shedding actions can make purchases under one of the other tariffs more economical.

But there`s more to it than looking at one profile, Table 1 represents only one of the facility`s seven basic load shapes, which include summer week day and spring/fall weekend. All must be evaluated to identify the most efficient means of purchasing electricity over a full-year period.

In the case of this facility, different usage patterns for production and HVAC during other periods so change the overall, annual picture that it becomes apparent a TOU energy contract, rather than a flat rate, will actually be most efficient for this customer (Table 2). Detailed, seasonal load profiles are the information tools that lead to this most efficient option and reduce the risk of selecting the wrong tariff for the supplier and customer.

As deregulation continues to open and redefine the increasingly complex energy market, load profiling provides knowledgeable suppliers and customers with critical data for informed decisions and innovative actions to manage power. Working together using load profiling data, suppliers and customers ensure the right power is available at the most efficient price in an environment that reduces risk to both parties.

B. James Halpern is CEO of Measuring & Monitoring Services Inc. (MMSI). Founded in 1990 to provide turnkey, central station monitoring services for verifying demand side management energy savings, the Tinton Falls, N.J. company now provides commercial, industrial and residential end-use metering, load research and profiling, corporate energy monitoring and analysis, and water system monitoring.

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