One hundred and four U.S. companies, schools, governments, and institutions are taking their building energy savings to a new level with the Department of Energy’s Smart Energy Analytics Campaign, a four-year initiative funded through the Building Technologies Office and facilitated by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to expand the use of energy management and information systems (EMIS) in commercial buildings.
The Smart Energy Analytics Campaign helped drive approximately 4 trillion BTUs of annual energy savings—enough to power more than 44,000 U.S. households for a year—reducing the campaign participants’ collective energy bills by $95 million a year. The research also enabled Berkeley Lab to create the world’s biggest collection of data on building energy analytics. This data set represents the first real-world, large-scale body of evidence of EMIS’ value to commercial buildings.
“Buildings account for nearly 40% of the energy used in the United States, with a total bill well over $400 billion per year,” said scientist Jessica Granderson, Berkeley Lab’s research deputy of the Building Technology & Urban Systems Division and leader of Berkeley Lab’s efforts in the campaign. “Energy management and information systems are smart building analytics technologies that reveal hidden energy waste and provide predictive, optimized control. They are critical to achieving major reductions in energy use and to providing healthy, grid-interactive efficient building and energy performance transparency.”
Nationwide, if buildings throughout the commercial sector adopted EMIS best practices, the resulting savings in annual energy costs could total $4 billion. Campaign participants—including Sprint, Kaiser Permanente, and Stanford University—implemented or expanded existing EMIS programs during the campaign and saved millions of dollars.
The campaign, a public-private partnership with businesses and public-sector organizations, has supported cutting-edge analytics technology use in over 6,500 buildings, totaling 567 million square feet of floor space. It allowed Berkeley Lab experts to offer technical assistance and provide industry partners with frequent opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction, including exchanging best practices.
“Industry partnerships are critical to Berkeley Lab’s buildings research. It has been tremendously rewarding to see our findings translated into real-world impacts,” said Granderson.
Median participants saved $3 million annually
Researchers found that average installation and software costs ranged from two to eight cents per square foot, depending on the type of EMIS system. The median participant saved approximately $3 million in annual energy costs across their portfolio. Investments in EMIS paid for themselves in approximately two years.
“It’s impractical for businesses to manually review the amount of data being collected in today’s commercial buildings—analytics are needed to get value from all that data. The savings from analytics tend to increase over time as additional opportunities are uncovered,” said Hannah Kramer, researcher with the team.
One participant, health care system Kaiser Permanente, expanded its use of fault detection and diagnostic software (FDD), a type of EMIS that uncovers errors in buildings systems such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, and points to solutions. In 2019, Kaiser Permanente was recognized for its use of EMIS at 69 buildings, demonstrating an average energy savings of 12%. It has since expanded the program to 113 buildings.
“Participating in the Smart Energy Analytics Campaign helped us maximize our energy efficiency efforts, reducing our carbon footprint and cutting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ramé Hemstreet, vice president for operations with Kaiser Permanente’s National Facilities Services.
Smart Energy Analytics Campaign participants whose energy management efforts incorporated FDD saw a median 9% annual energy savings.
Specific examples help achieve carbon neutrality
Sprint, which has a goal of going carbon neutral by 2025, added fault detection and diagnostic software to the EMIS covering its headquarters campus in Kansas. Sprint’s EMIS system saved the company over $400,000 in energy bills and 4,787,000 kWh annually.
“Sprint’s EMIS can identify issues we didn’t previously know existed, so we can address them before they become a problem, saving money and providing better comfort for our associates,” said Sprint Enterprise Energy Manager Darrel Carter.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky implemented its Commonwealth Energy Management and Control System (CEMCS), an EMIS monitoring 1,145 buildings. A sampling of the buildings, which range from offices to college dormitories to hospitals and food-service facilities, revealed energy savings of 8%.
“If something goes wrong, we have the data to make the case to get it fixed and verify the result,” said Andrew Carter, CEMCS program manager.
Stanford University’s 315 housing and food-service operations were being serviced by 2,000 separate utility accounts. The university installed monitors and an EMIS to track utilities and identify opportunities to cut waste. That saved Stanford University Residential and Dining Enterprises $451,000 on its utility bills, including reducing the electric bill by 5% and the gas bill by 10%.
What’s next for smart energy analytics at DOE
Although the Smart Energy Analytics Campaign is concluding, its work will continue through DOE’s Better Buildings program, with ongoing support from the team of experts at Berkeley Lab. The Smart Energy Analytics Campaign is one of several successful Better Buildings Alliance technology drives, led by DOE’s national laboratories, that aim to accelerate adoption of efficient building technologies by providing technical assistance, resources, and guidance on best practices.
Other such initiatives include the Building Envelope and Integrated Lighting campaigns. In addition, DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program is planning for the Smart Energy Analytics Campaign to accelerate EMIS adoption in the government sector.