Monitoring is a tool that, when well used, helps optimize energy consumption. Of course, it means an immediate cost. Reaching a balance between the information and the investment necessary to obtain this data is one of the challenges facing those responsible for the energy management of companies and organizations

A monitoring system is a tool designed to control and manage our facilities. For this, it is essential to implement a series of network analyzers that allow gathering all the necessary information. Before reaching this point, it is essential to reflect on what the monitoring system is needed for and what it is expected to obtain from it. From this point of view there are several areas where to act:

  • Environment and CSR. Oriented to energy saving that results in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other actions associated with corporate social responsibility. At this point we must bear in mind that the basis of these savings is the measurement, you cannot save what is not known
  • A system of alarms and a continuous management of different energy parameters, is indicative of the malfunction of a team so that preventive actions can be made instead of corrective
  • You can isolate the energy consumption of a particular process, so that you know the exact energy value for the manufacture of a certain element or a complete line of work and that this cost has an impact on production costs
  • Economic spending. With a view to know the distribution of consumption of my facilities and act to reduce the electricity bill

Once it is clear why a monitoring system is required, the scope of the system must be defined taking into account a series of criteria such as:

Measure vs. measure and control. You can opt for a monitoring in which we only know the consumption data or another in which in addition to measuring; we can manage the monitored circuits with basic functions, without ever reaching the level of a SCADA.

Consumption tree vs. monitoring of MAEs. What use do I want to give to the collected data? Do I need them to obtain a consumption tree from our facilities, or, on the contrary, do I want to follow up on the MAEs implanted or that are going to be implemented?

Size of the facilities. It is not the same the deployment of meters that is necessary for an industry, that a large tertiary installation or in an office.

Scope and frequency. You have to consider the detail of the consumption that I need from my installation, it is enough with the general consumption of a specific area or I need the detail of each one of the installed equipment. You also have to consider the frequency with which you are required to receive the data.

Investment. We must not lose sight of the fact that implementing a sub-measure system has a cost; the available investment must be taken into account in order to prioritize circuits to be measured. Perhaps it is necessary to consider carrying out a monitoring by phases, extending it year after year depending on the results.

Cost-effectiveness. It is important to carry out a study that includes indicators such as the IRR and the NPV that economically value other not-so-tangible benefits, such as environmental benefits, to evaluate the usefulness of the sub-measure.

In general, depending on the intensity of the energy consumption of my installation and the investment intended, the following graph shows if we are interested in a monitoring system and of what type:

Next, based on the experience of Creara, some of the main utilities derived from the analysis of the data obtained with an energy monitoring system are presented.

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  • Determine anomalous consumption according to the schedule and the calendar. It involves analyzing the consumption pattern of my installation to determine anomalies and correct inefficient behaviors in order to reduce energy expenditure
  • Comparison between facilities with different climatic zone or management. You can also compare the consumption that occurs in a certain period with a previous one or a baseline
  • Segmentation of the consumptions produced in the installations, by buildings, work areas, depending on the degree of detail of the monitoring system
  • Economic management, with a detailed knowledge of how much and when each unit of the installation consumes, a forecast of costs and adjustments in deviations is made
  • Energy indicators It is possible to obtain consumption ratios based on different variables such as square meters, production, number of users, etc.
  • Improvement in maintenance Observation of the variables reported by network analyzers, in which anomalous behaviors of the equipment are detected and maintenance tasks are improved
  • Energy management system. It is easily implemented, with a sub-measure, in order to improve the behavior of the installation

Advantages of energy consumption monitoring systems

When talking about monitoring systems, reference is really made to remote monitoring, that is, by means of telematics systems, since it usually cannot be carried out remotely.

For example, when a board measures consumption and an operator goes down every day to the electrical room to write down in a notepad the expense of the last day, at the end of the month it will be possible to see how the consumption has evolved. It is, of course, a manual system, but not remote.

Obviously, it is more expensive because it requires a greater intervention of the human being. Therefore, until a few years ago, only those processes that due to their size justified a high expenditure on human resources were monitored.

However, the development of telecommunications systems has reduced their cost and has allowed many processes to be monitored. If we add to this the capacity of analysis provided by computer tools when processing data, the result is remote measurement systems that allow collecting and analyzing information in a comfortable and relatively cheap way.

According to Creara, many advantages can be cited, but they are grouped into three:

Better control of consumption, by monitoring energy consumption, one of the most profitable options is to have under control those variables for which we pay on the bill: active energy, power, and reactive energy. Having these three variables controlled, using alarm systems and invoice optimization tools, will allow us to keep the money we pay for the energy we consume at bay. For this, the most advisable thing is to measure the fiscal meter.

Better analysis of energy costs, when the processes whose consumption we want to measure are relatively complex, it is important to understand how much energy each part of the process consumes. If measuring instruments are installed in the circuits or equipment in question, we can have a cost accounting with the detail we need. In addition, some tools include very powerful analysis features that allow conclusions to be drawn from a large amount of data.

The better understanding of the environmental implications of the facilities. It is increasingly common for organizations to worry about the impact that their activity has on the environment. A system that monitors energy consumption and segment duly (by use, geographical area or any other relevant criterion) allows us to understand the effects of each part of the activity. In addition, it will enable the creation of easy-to-follow energy performance indicators, very useful for ISO 50001 systems.

The advantages of implementing a remote energy monitoring system seem clear, but the key is not that, but understand what type of system is most suitable for each consumer and what is the return that will be achieved in each case. This can be purely economic (either by reducing costs or the staff that manages the energy) or consist of getting more information or better quality on consumption. So, before investing, we must understand well what utility is sought from a monitoring system.

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How much savings is generated by implementing an energy management and monitoring system?

Monitoring understood as a process that allows us to know the consumptions of an installation, is an essential part of the energy management of a company. Otherwise, we would not have enough information to be able to act. The fact of knowing them better does not mean that they are reduced per se, but you cannot save on what is not known.

Monitoring facilitates the collection of useful information that will help achieve energy savings, such as the detection of ghost consumption that occurs in companies at night or on weekends.

In addition, the monitoring will allow the comparison of:

  • Different facilities located in different climatic zones, in order to assess the real impact of these on consumption, or within the same area to analyze the management that is being made of the consumptions in one installation and another
  • In different periods, confronting a certain consumption with respect to a previous cycle is very important in the energy management systems implemented or in energy services projects in which they are compared with a baseline to evaluate the savings that a series of measures have

All this information will serve to detect inefficiencies and thus be able to act on them, which will allow achieving greater benefits. Another usefulness of monitoring systems in energy saving is to establish what is the real saving that has been achieved after the implementation of a series of measures. This is essential in energy service projects in which the company that carries them out charges one amount or another, depending on the savings obtained.