Power monitoring to aid CO2 reduction targets
CO2 emissions need to be reduced by at least 50% by 2050, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Achieving this will not halt global warming altogether, but it will limit the global temperature rise to 2°C. Accordingly, Australia has committed to a 26–28% emissions reduction target by 2030.1
Commercial buildings are a substantial contributor to global energy usage, accounting for 40% of global energy consumption, and around 10% of the electricity consumed in Australia, which is better than the global average but could still be improved.2 Australian facilities managers, building owners and tenants can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions by reducing the amount of energy they use. This can be achieved through the use of effective measurement and analysis tools that illuminate actual energy usage and highlight where savings can be achieved.
Australian building standards and ratings
The key is to prioritise energy efficiency. In fact, this is so important that there are now requirements in place for commercial buildings to disclose their energy efficiency ratings. The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) is an Australian Government initiative to measure and compare the environmental performance of Australian buildings and tenancies. NABERS uses 12 months of real, measurable information such as bills or waste consumption data to compare the performance of a building or tenancy to benchmarks created by the performance of other, similar buildings in the same location.
The resulting star rating helps identify how a building is performing. For example, a one-star rating means the building is performing very poorly, while a six-star rating means the building is a market leader. The electronic rating certificate is valid for 12 months, during which time it’s possible to work towards improvements.
The Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) program, mandated by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, requires sellers and lessors of large commercial office spaces to provide energy efficiency information to prospective buyers and tenants.3 The program relies on NABERS ratings.
The voluntary Green Star requirements assess the design of office fit-outs. While not mandatory for government compliance, the Green Star ratings can provide a useful measurement that can help lower operating costs, reduce liability and risk, improve the health of the working environment, and attract and retain tenants, among other benefits.
According to the National Construction Code, areas greater than 500 square metres must have gas and electricity monitoring in place. Areas greater than 2500 square metres must individually monitor and record the energy used by air conditioning, lighting, hot water supply, internal transport devices such as lifts (if there are more than 11), general power usage and other ancillary plants.4
The government is also working with state and territory governments to implement minimum energy performance requirements for new buildings and major refurbishments.5
Reducing power use with power monitoring
According to NABERS, tenants can make their offices more energy efficient at low or even no cost, and could potentially reduce their bills by as much as 60% year-on-year with the right approach.6
Facilities managers should implement a suite of solutions, such as those provided by Socomec, that can help monitor energy usage, analyse the consumption and communicate insights so that areas for efficiency gains can be identified and leveraged.
To effectively manage energy usage, it’s important to have real-time monitoring of energy usage and events. This makes it possible to track performance and identify potential energy savings while there’s still time to achieve them, rather than days, weeks or months later when the information may be out of date.
Furthermore, it’s crucial to have visibility at all levels of energy infrastructure. This avoids blind spots and ensures that all energy consumption is accounted for and allocated to the proper source. Instead of a general requirement to cut energy use, facilities managers can get specific insights that can lead to meaningful action. For example, facilities managers may be able to see that air conditioners left running overnight or on weekends are using a significant amount of electricity. They can then decide to turn the air conditioning off at certain times to reduce electricity consumption without affecting tenants unduly.
This can be extended down to the device level. Being able to see that certain devices are power hungry versus others means decisions can be made regarding servicing or upgrading those devices to more energy-efficient models.
Power monitoring systems to consider
Facilities managers should choose a measurement and monitoring solution that includes AC and DC connectivity for hybrid power supplies and is safe to use, with no hazardous voltage on panel doors. The solution should use smart sensors with a long operational range, automatic rating configuration and safe disconnection of the current sensor under load.
The ideal solution is one that’s scalable, with modules easily added anywhere in the measurement system.
It should also offer easy-to-understand reports that are accessible from anywhere, both locally and remotely.
Cloud connectivity offers a higher level of analysis, while visual reporting makes it easier to see at a glance what’s going on. Being able to visualise and analyse real-time and historical measurements from a large number of connected devices is vital. And, all reported information should be accessible from any centralised management software.
The solution should measure real-time electrical values, analyse the power quality of the grid and loads, send alarms via email whenever thresholds are exceeded and provide a summary of alarms in progress as well as a log of finished alarms.
And, the solution should include a network quality analyser that doesn’t just determine how much power the building uses but guarantees the availability of electrical installations and the safety of assets. This is particularly important for critical buildings such as data centres, banks and infrastructure providers.
A network quality analyser can also reveal whether power quality problems stem from transport and distribution issues, unbalanced loads or neighbours sucking up the power. Once these factors are understood, measures can be taken to reduce their influence on power quality, which can also reduce the amount of energy that is wasted.
A sophisticated solution will help decision-makers account for influencing factors including outside temperatures, surface area of the building, occupancy and more. It should take into account tenant comfort, lighting, security and environmental quality, as well.
The system should then let facilities managers identify potential energy savings by analysing various parameters. This could include a consumption comparison between several sites and periods, cost analysis, peak demand analysis, reactive energy penalties analysis and comfort parameters analysis such as temperature and humidity.
Personalised dashboards per user, per site, with personalised reports and alarm features will make it easier to keep a tight leash on power consumption. And, as changes are made, the system should make it easy to quantify those savings by measuring against energy performance key performance indicators (KPIs) and correlation analyses.
It’s important to choose a solution that can be retrofitted to the building without significant disruption. This lets building owners gain monitoring and measuring capabilities without having to invest in expensive refurbishment. Consequently, they can more easily comply with government regulations and use their improved energy-efficient ratings to make their building more attractive to potential lessees or buyers.
The first step towards reducing CO2 emissions and improving buildings’ energy efficiency is to understand exactly how much energy is being used and why. Once these benchmark measurements are in place, tenants, facilities managers and building owners can begin enacting strategies to reduce energy consumption. Constantly measuring the outcomes of these strategies is crucial so their efficacy can be well understood. If energy-saving measures aren’t effective, they could potentially be abandoned in favour of measures that yield stronger savings.
By committing to taking smart initiatives to reduce energy consumption, all Australian building owners and tenants can contribute to the planned emissions reduction target of 26–28% by 2030.
- National Construction Code Section J8.3 Facilities for Energy Monitoring
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