How Energy Management and Onsite Generation Contributes to the Bottom Line



As tools for managing energy consumption expand — and the cost of energy efficiency technologies falls — companies are increasingly adopting an informed, hands-on approach to managing their energy costs. This involves not only installing the latest in energy management technology, but also generating and storing heat and power on-site. For some companies, the motive is improving the bottom line; for others it’s more about creating a sustainable future. For a company like Anheuser-Busch InBev both motives are at play — it has announced a commitment to make the company’s roughly $400 million a year worth of purchased electricity 100 percent green by 2025.
Here are four ways businesses across industries can take control of their energy consumption — and their energy bills.

1. Cut Costs With an Energy Audit

Before a business can really begin to cut its energy bills, it has to know where, when and how it consumes electricity and gas. An audit or independent review is the first crucial step. The assessor’s report will provide a detailed profile of energy consumed by buildings, industrial processes and transportation. An energy audit will also identify areas of waste and recommend energy-efficiency measures.
For example, cutting energy used for cooling in a hot, sun-exposed building would involve planting trees alongside the building or installing solar blinds to keep the building cool on hot, sunny days. Because lighting accounts for more than a quarter of energy consumption in commercial buildings, investing in LED lighting can also be a smart investment — it’s a simple and inexpensive switch and LED lighting uses up to 80 percent less power than traditional incandescent bulbs. Another relatively easy way to boost energy savings is to install motion sensors, which turn off lights in unoccupied rooms and areas. For example, as part of one our projects, a Volvo parts distribution center converted all of its warehouse lights to LED high bay lights with motion sensors. By doing so, we helped them to achieve a 60 percent energy savings and operating savings of $600,000 over 10 years.
Similarly, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center converted all of the lights in its parking garage to LED, reducing energy costs by 70 percent ($69,000 a year).
An energy review is inexpensive — especially since it will pay for itself with short-term energy savings and will help building managers to make informed decisions about long-term energy efficiency strategies.

2. Take Advantage of Energy Management Technology

Energy management systems (EMT) enable a building operator to deliver energy in whatever form to where it is needed in the most efficient and affordable manner possible. This technology is commonly used by medium- sized and large- scale organizations to centrally monitor, measure and control heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting systems across multiple locations through the use of sensors. Once the results are collected, EMT adjusts systems as required to maintain comfort and ideal working condition in an energy efficient manner.
A variety of businesses and organizations have adopted the technology, including the Dallas Independent School District, Walmart, IKEA and other chain stores.

3. Generate Power Onsite

The ability to self-produce power offers many benefits to businesses, including providing energy independence and cover against potential grid-wide power outages due to natural events like hurricanes or winter storms. The range of fuels for on-site power generation has widened in recent years to include sustainable energy sources, such as biomass, geothermal, solar and wind.

Examples of onsite power generation abound. Solar rooftop panels have become commonplace on commercial roofs. The Gilmore School in Union City, New Jersey, installed 392 solar panels (102 kW) provided by Turtle & Hughes to reduce utility costs. Apple’s new corporate campus in California relies wholly on solar panels for power. GM has retrofitted one of its Michigan plants to use landfill gas which now powers 54 percent of the site’s electricity consumption. The trend is not limited to traditional businesses. The agricultural sector is seeing a trend towards self-generation as well. For instance, many farmers produce heat and power from manure and other organic waste, which is processed in anaerobic digesters. The military, which of necessity requires grid independence, is using geothermal power at some military bases, including Fort Drum in upstate New York and the Naval Air Weapons Station in China Lake, California.

4. Store Energy

The falling cost of battery storage is boosting renewable energy use, because one of the main downsides of renewable energy is that it’s not necessarily produced at the times it’s most needed — and sometimes more energy is produced than can possibly be consumed.
The ability to use renewable energy stored over time not only cuts energy bills, it’s also good for the environment, which makes it good for marketing and PR too.

Businesses are using energy storage in two main ways. First, it allows them to buy power when the cost of electricity is cheapest and store it for use during expensive peak times. Second, energy storage can enhance on-site generation by storing any surplus power, either for later use or for sale to the grid when prices are most favorable.
A good example of an energy storage system comes from Brea Mall in Orange County, California, which buys power from the grid when prices are low and stores the energy in two Tesla Powerpacks. This power is then released at peak times when prices are high. Battery storage not only cuts the mall’s electricity bill but provides back-up power and contributes to increased grid resilience.
Technical innovations — combined with lower costs of energy management systems, renewable technology and batteries — have allowed business to take a more pro-active role in managing their energy consumption, comfort levels and working environment.

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