Why don’t more businesses track energy data?

Most successful businesses measure and manage data maniacally. At Brightergy, for example, we measure key performance indicators such as gross margin, sales conversion rates, pipeline contribution, days from sales booking to implementation, etc. And nearly every business utilizes software to manage their data (think Quickbooks or other accounting systems, or platforms like Salesforce, Domo, and others).

Through conversations with thousands of prospects and clients — typically building owners — we’ve learned that <10% track and measure their energy data. On the surface this may be surprising since for most organizations, electricity is often a top five operating expense. However when we delve deeper into these conversations, we find that there is usually an assumption that there is little they can do to control the amount of money they spend on electricity. Unlike virtually every other operating expense, energy remains little understood or questioned.

Electricity is essential for businesses to operate: it’s the lifeblood of commerce. It’s also pretty confusing. For example, there are thousands of potential combinations that make up an electric bill and they almost always vary from one utility to another.

Your bill may be based on a combination of charges that include peak demand, total kilowatt-hour consumption, power factor, ratchets, load factor, time of energy use, fuel surcharges, fixed customer charges, taxes that range from 0 to 30%, renewable or energy efficiency programs, etc. And you wouldn’t be alone in not knowing what even half of those terms mean.

Because it’s confusing, most businesses haven’t taken the time to understand their energy data or how much money they could save by tracking energy data and taking control. Building owners often take some more obvious steps such as setting schedules for HVAC, putting motion sensors on lights, installing more energy-efficient equipment, or adding solar, but data-driven strategies remain rare.

Another reason businesses aren’t tracking their energy data is that the technology has previously been out of reach for most. Utilities seldom offer their customers the ability to track their consumption in real time because their business model is to sell more electricity, not less. Tracking energy in real time has historically been limited to buildings with expensive building management systems. As prices for internet-connected sensors and cloud computing fall alongside advances in the entire IoT ecosystem, measuring energy data has never been easier or cheaper.

At Brightergy we serve our clients as their trusted energy partner. Our job as their energy experts is much easier when we have access to the data.

For example, we worked with a large client in the medical industry to install real-time energy monitoring hardware prior to a large efficiency upgrade to LED lights. They were able to capture their pre- and post-LED energy consumption details and verified a 41.7% reduction in the amount of electricity they use for lighting. This resulted in annual savings of more than $68,000 for them and validated their project ROI. They were then able to use data to make the decision to move forward with another investment in energy-efficient upgrades.

There are also many examples — which we’ll cover in future posts — of using real-time energy monitoring to identify energy waste or to switch electric tariffs that result in thousands of dollars in savings.

Energy is both trackable and controllable and measuring your energy data — whether it’s your utility bills or real-time consumption, or both — should be the foundation for any building owner’s energy strategy.

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