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Case study: monitoring energy via smart meter

How Colliers International used smart meters to reduce waste and cut energy costs
Friday, June 6, 2014
By Lorina Keery

Information is power, and interval data from smart meters is truly a game-changer when it comes to monitoring energy and managing the operation of a building.

In British Columbia, B.C. Hydro has finished the conversion of their infrastructure to smart meters. Most recently, they have begun transmitting the consumption data back to the customer through their online portal, MyHydro, with only a 24-hour delay. As a result, building managers and operators can now see exactly how much energy their building consumes on a daily and hourly basis, including up to five-minute intervals from the previous day.

At Colliers International, we saw the value of accessing the consumption data and immediately took advantage of this information so that we could further our understanding of where there may be opportunities for improvement in electricity consumption. We had compelling results from the first building that we looked into, which spurred further action for the remainder of our portfolio.

We manage a building owned and occupied by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, which has an older direct digital control (DDC) system and lighting controls with limited capabilities to visualize, aggregate or trend usage data. When we viewed the daily consumption data in MyHydro we saw that energy consumption on the weekends remained high in comparison to weekday usage, even though the property is largely unoccupied on weekends.

In addition to this, when we looked further into the hourly data, we could see that consumption spiked at 4:00 a.m. This indicated that the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and possibly the lights were coming on well before the building was becoming occupied.

While the building typically was not occupied past 6:00 p.m., electricity consumption was not dropping until 9:00 p.m. This provided further opportunity to adjust the schedule. We believe there had potentially been scheduling changes made to accommodate increased hours of operation, which may not have been reprogrammed to return to original hours of operation.

We immediately sent an HVAC technician to the property who worked with the site technician to implement scheduling changes to see if we could reduce the consumption during unoccupied hours. After waiting two days for the changes to take place and to get a complete day of consumption data, we were thrilled with the results. The morning spike in consumption was successfully delayed by two hours until 6:00 a.m. We also observed an earlier evening reduction in electricity consumption starting at 5:00 p.m., which indicated that the scheduling changes worked.

The information was shared with the owner and site technician, who were both pleased with the instant results. We monitored the consumption throughout the remainder of that week and could see that the site technician had continued to make slight adjustments to the schedule to further reduce energy consumption.

In just one week, we were able to reduce consumption by 14 per cent on weekdays and 26 per cent on weekends. If these reductions are maintained and we continue to monitor the consumption and schedules in the DDC system, this will translate into a savings of $17,500 annually on the electricity bill and operating costs.

With less money being spent on electricity bills, the Real Estate Board is open to investing in energy retrofits that will help bring additional reductions in energy consumption.

Although Colliers knew this building was one of the higher energy consumers in our portfolio, without access to the daily and hourly electricity consumption data, we would not have seen the opportunities to make these immediate improvements. The smart meter interval consumption data has become a useful tool in effective building operations and management.

Lorina Keery is manager of sustainability, real estate management services, at Colliers International.

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