We are witnessing a major shift in the corporate landscape: more companies than ever before have moved from being unaware to recognising that the energy they produce and consume has a cost.
Companies want to take action, but they don’t know what to do or where to start.
Prices are rising, legislation is tightening and, according to recent research by Deloitte, customers are increasingly concerned about buying from brands with a clear commitment to reducing their environmental impact.
Knowing how much energy your company’s sites are using is the first item on your energy action plan.
As Lord Kelvin said, “To measure is to know. If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”.
Fortunately, benchmarking is one way to do this.
If you have already benchmarked the energy performance of your building or portfolio, you probably recognized the value and importance of this activity.
But if you haven’t started yet, read on to learn more about the critical importance of energy benchmarking and how you can benefit.
Where to start
How do your sites perform in terms of energy consumption, compared to each other?
If you don’t know the answer, don’t worry – according to Berkeley Lab, the majority of site owners and managers don’t know the energy performance of their portfolios.
The good news is that you can easily perform a benchmarking analysis to get this vital information, so you can make data-driven decisions to control and manage your situation.
In fact, by implementing an energy benchmarking analysis you will be able to:
- Know whether your building’s energy performance is improving or deteriorating, and apply this across your portfolio.
- Identify underperforming sites and good opportunities for savings.
- Monitor closely whether your cost-saving action plan is moving in the right direction.
What is energy benchmarking
Energy benchmarking is the ongoing process of reviewing the energy consumption of a portfolio composed of sites, to identify improvements in overall energy performance.
The energy benchmarking approach
Consumption data is the fuel of benchmarking; nothing can be done without it.
Data is essential, but it also needs to be understood.
To answer questions like “How do I know if my site is energy efficient?”, “What is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ site?”, you need to establish a benchmark.
This is the starting point from which the current situation is observed and compared with the expected energy consumption.
In fact, the benchmark is nothing more than a reference point to define whether the energy performance of a site/store is good or not and to specify what needs to be achieved in terms of energy consumption.
For benchmarking, it is necessary to either use a criterion to calculate energy consumption or to normalise the calculation, and the best way to do this is to use the average consumption of all sites.
In fact, by doing so you compare sites with similar characteristics because the point is to make different sites equivalent and comparable.
To understand better, let’s look at an example.
If we take two sites, one located in the mountains and the other nearby the sea, the one in the mountains will most likely consume more. In fact, it has to use more energy to heat up because the outside temperature is lower, so it uses extra energy.
But the one that uses more energy is not necessarily the most inefficient.
By the same logic, a 300m2 shop will use more energy than a 150m2 shop, because the larger the building, the more surface area to heat.
At this point, the question arises: how can the two sites be compared in a way to eliminate these influencing variables?
The concept of calculation normalisation comes to the rescue.
Energy normalisation is a process that adjusts actual energy results to those that would have occurred under normal conditions.
Indeed, energy consumption needs to be comparable and translated into something that energy professionals can understand.
There are several methods of normalising consumption, based on different influencing factors such as:
- surface area;
- weather conditions (for example, we use the Degree-days, a measure of heating or cooling used to compare the heating or cooling requirements of different buildings or the same building at different times);
- purpose (for instance, the consumption of a retailer with refrigerators will be different from that of a retailer without);
- occupancy (i.e. how many people are usually in the store).
At the end of the adjustments, the normalized consumption is expressed as follows:
This is a powerful mechanism because it allows an apples-to-apples comparison between different buildings.
But what if I am unable to normalize my stores because the concept is not applicable? Does that mean I cannot benchmark my portfolio?
Of course not, the analysis is always possible, it just needs to be adapted.
Benchmarking by changing portfolio boundary conditions
Of course, the one above is not an exhaustive list of influencing factors; in fact, you may find that the weather doesn’t affect your sites (perhaps they are in a basement sheltered from the weather).
In this case, you can use other factors for the analysis, like the structural characteristics of the buildings.
For instance, you may have a group of sites with rooftop solar panels on one side and those without on the other, both belonging to the same portfolio.
You will first benchmark and compare the sites with panels installed, and then repeat the process for the other group.
By dividing them, you have again made an apples-to-apples comparison.
Energy benchmarking typologies
When you start the energy benchmarking process, you need to work out what exactly you are benchmarking your energy consumption against, as there are several options.
Internal and external benchmarking
At the very first level, we talk about internal or external benchmarking.
In fact, energy benchmarking can be an internal process, comparing your building’s performance with past performance or with other buildings in your portfolio, or it can be external, comparing your building with similar buildings outside your organization.
Whether internal or external, regular energy benchmarking provides concrete data that encourages energy professionals to strive for continuous improvement.
Historical comparison and benchmarking against a group of similar
Going deeper into the second level, the comparison can be divided into two groups: comparing a building with itself from time period to time period, or comparing it with a group of similar buildings (within or outside the portfolio).
The historical comparison is easy to perform because you control the data and know what has happened to the building over time that could affect energy use. You can then easily identify and track efficiency improvements over previous periods.
How to do a benchmarking step by step
There are three steps you need to take to effectively benchmark your sites:
- Gather your data.
- Act and follow-up.
Gather your data
This is a one-off activity to obtain the data, i.e. to retrieve consumption data for all sites.
This is possible thanks to the main meters, which are located where the source of the primary (most important) energy you want to monitor is, so you can get the main consumption.
This data is usually available thanks to the Distribution System Operator: it is not only responsible for the distribution of energy, but also for the collection and storage of consumption data.
In fact, the data is entered daily, every 10 or 15 minutes for electricity and every hour for gas.
For more information about retrieving data with DSO
For example, with Energis.Cloud, once you have connected all the main meters you need, you will see all your consumption data uploaded to the platform, with the detailed value for each site.
Once the energy management software ingests the data, it will display them graphically.
Since interpretation is an activity that needs to be done on a regular basis, it is easier to use an EMS that presents the data with a good graphical interpretation so that you don’t waste time scrolling unnecessarily.
For this reason, the Energis.Cloud graphs show the sites ranked according to their consumption expressed in kWh, from the lowest (‘the best) to the highest (‘the worst’).
In this way, you can see which sites require intervention.
Other useful features include:
- A ranking chart where each site is represented by a bar.
- A map with coloured pins showing the location of your sites. Each colour (red, yellow, green) represents the performance of the sites, so you can assess the performance of your portfolio at a glance.
Act and follow-up
The energy benchmarking results are useful for assessing the current situation, but you know that without an action plan, there will be no improvement.
This is where you put into practice what you have learned from the analysis.
Once the action plan is in place, you should track and monitor progress. A good way to follow up is to automatically receive reports on a weekly or monthly basis so that you are always in control of the situation.
The added value of energy benchmarking through Energis.Cloud
With intuitive, talking charts, drag-and-drop functionality, and the ability to collect data from DSOs in different countries, as well as weather, occupancy, and activity data, Energis.Cloud enables you to make the best energy-saving decisions ever.
If simplicity is what you’re after, and especially if benchmarking energy consumption is new to you, contact one of our experts.
We will be glad to help you scale towards sustainability and energy efficiency.