By James McPhail
Energy policies have started to feel increasingly uncertain in recent months, but the immense energy impact of our nation’s buildings can’t be disputed. Buildings are responsible for 40% of U.S. energy use and nearly half of our total CO2 emissions. With better management tools, we can help lower that building burden.
Currently, only 14% of commercial buildings are even measuring and tracking their energy use, much less actively managing and optimizing it. This is a missed opportunity that contributes to the estimated $120 billion wasted in commercial energy costs each year. Commercial buildings should no longer operate with a blind eye toward energy optimization — especially considering energy consumption can be cut dramatically with simple adjustments.
Simple energy management devices can help facility management professionals cut electricity costs using technologies most often associated with smart homes. These systems dynamically control commercial HVAC, demand response, lighting, and energy consumption.
To take this intuitive, connected approach one step further, commercial energy management offerings often include behind-the-scenes partnerships with complementary energy management players.
This very challenge and solution took place with National Stores, a California-based retailer with more than 350 locations across the nation. The company had no formal energy management offering in place, and relied on the memory and inclination of store managers to turn off the lighting and HVAC systems at the end of a night. In an effort to reduce the cost of energy usage, National Stores explored simple, “set-it-and-forget-it” systems that could be implemented with minimal modifications to current infrastructure (no store closures), and would deliver immediate dollar savings. The system put in place targeted HVAC (the company’s biggest energy waster) and coupled IoT connected hardware and software. With this comprehensive energy management platform, National Stores experienced notable benefits of reduced energy consumption across its portfolio of buildings: energy bills were chopped by 25% compared to the previous year.
On top of the energy management savings already received, National Stores is expected to benefit further from a partnership between its energy management partner, Zen Ecosystems, and another energy management provider, Encycle. Simply put, this recently formed partnership will add the ability for rooftop HVAC units to communicate with one another to manage peak energy demands, shutting unneeded units down and activating units in harmony when needed. National Stores, who had already observed a 15% to 25% energy savings since the installation of its initial energy management platform, will now realize an additional 15% to 25% reduction in peak demand charges. The results are real savings this retailer can now invest in its business beyond “keeping the lights on.”
“Energy management systems always seemed like they weren’t worth the hassle,” said Jimmy Lee, former energy manager for National Stores after the project was in place at the retailer’s facilities. “Zen HQ impressed us with its fast deployment and real return on investment. Installation has been a snap, and since it’s so easy to use we’re already making a big dent in our electricity bills. By keeping costs down, we can continue to pass great value along to our customers nationwide.”
Buildings are obviously essential to our daily lives. We live, work, shop, and spend the majority of time inside of them. The reason buildings make up such a large slice of our energy consumption pie is because we need them — even more motivation to improve how they function.
Facility managers have significant opportunities to reduce building energy use, but the solution needs to be simple with a quick ROI to be widely adopted. Fortunately, smart energy management innovations are now making effective solutions accessible, without requiring the forfeit of precious time and resources.
Smart can be the new status quo.
McPhail is CEO of Zen Ecosystems, with significant experience in strategy and management within the energy industry. Prior to Zen, he was EVP Sales at REGEN/Encycle, and prior to that he led Western U.S. Sales at EnerNOC, a leader in demand response. He is also the Chairman of the Board at Enersponse and sits on the Board of Huevos Wax.