By Andrei Moldoveanu, Senior Program Manager, NEMA
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated a trend in the commercial buildings market that existed before but was not front and center. With office space under major reconfiguration pressure, building managers and owners will implement new technologies that would improve profitability and increase flexibility. Other types of commercial buildings have similar needs.
One such technology is electrical energy submetering. Submeters installed downstream from the master utility meter allow monitoring separately relevant components of the entire electrical building structure. Storing their energy consumption data is like having “the transcripts of a trial” says a recently published white paper by the NEMA Electrical Submeter Section. Titled Demonstrated Benefits of Stored Energy Performance Data, the NEMA ESM 3-2021 document goes into more detail describing specific benefits building owners may derive by making informed decisions regarding building operations and energy management.
One of the first benefits of storing energy data is benchmarking, the ability to compare a set of energy consumption data to itself, peer buildings, established norms, or others. To get the most benefits out of this effort, organizations should develop a benchmarking plan and stick to it. An EPA ENERGY STAR® program developed a benchmarking fact sheet for 35,000 buildings in a three-year program, demonstrating significant energy savings.
Forecasting and budgeting are two linked benefits building owners could use to their advantage. Understanding the specific energy performance and history of any functional subsystem of the building electrical system could be used to accurately model the entire system behavior and predict its related costs. The advent of demand response (DR) submetering allows the building manager to use historical data to decide what subsystems could be shed without affecting occupants’ comfort and operational stability.
Remote monitoring is another option increasingly used by building managers to troubleshoot issues from afar. By monitoring the data trends, they can implement predictive maintenance, one of the most effective ways of keeping the building running without significant interruptions.
Billing tenants is, in most cases, done today by dividing the utility bill into tenant shares based on criteria such as unit occupancy or surface. By replacing these methods with individual tenant submeter billing, building owners are effectively passing some of the energy-saving responsibility to tenants. Studies show that such savings are not trivial. One study showed electrical energy consumption reduced by 25 percent after switching to individual billing.
Finally, add this flow of relevant data about building behavior to the new crop of building management systems (BMS) equipped with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, and the results are expected to blossom in energy savings, tenant comfort, increased reliability, and sustainability.