The role of real-time alerts in achieving zero-energy targets
According to a report by the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE), buildings are responsible for 40% of the EU’s energy consumption and 36% of its greenhouse gas emissions. To meet this challenge, the European Union has set a target for all buildings to be nearly zero-energy by 2050 to reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency is critical to combating climate change and lowering GHG emissions: by improving it, we can reduce energy consumption, which not only helps to decrease our carbon footprint but also leads to cost savings.
Fortunately, a number of tools are available to make buildings and sites more energy efficient, based on understanding their behaviour.
As described in other articles, energy benchmarking – the ongoing process of reviewing the energy consumption of a portfolio of sites to identify improvements in overall energy performance – plays an important role.
To further deepen this understanding, opening and closing time analysis can effectively uncover hidden information: by breaking down the building’s operating time into meaningful periods, it is possible to extract the information you need to drive an energy efficiency plan based on an even more accurate insight into your energy data.
But this is only half the battle. Once the current energy situation of the building has been assessed, changes in the energy consumption of the site should be tracked and monitored. In fact, any kind of change from the “normal” or usual energy behaviour should be investigated, as it may be the prelude to something more serious.
In fact, these deviations can be the alarm bell of a hidden problem, and the only way to find out what is happening is to be informed as soon as possible.
Indeed, by receiving real-time alerts from your energy management system, you can:
- Identify the problem before it becomes a major issue.
- Respond quickly to problems and take appropriate action to prevent energy waste and unnecessary costs.
- Monitor the energy performance of the building, identify areas for improvement, and optimise energy use.
In today’s fast-paced world, where every minute counts, real-time alerts allow you to stay informed about your portfolio’s energy consumption and ensure control over its performance.
If you have not yet explored the full potential of real-time alerts, read on to learn more about their importance and how you can benefit from.
Table of Contents
The energy alerts
The energy alerts kick in when the energy consumption of a facility does not match its usual (previously measured) consumption behaviour, which is why we call it “abnormal“.
But what does abnormal mean?
When a building is used very efficiently, we expect the energy consumption to follow the standard behaviour, i.e. when the building is unoccupied, no energy is consumed (no lights on, no HVAC running…) because no one is working, and therefore no energy needs to be consumed.
This can be considered as the expected behaviour. On the other hand, if energy is consumed during non-working hours (and therefore there is consumption), then the behaviour is different and further investigation is required.
Being alerted when anomalies occur allows you to intervene and prevent the situation from getting worse. In fact, anomalies are a wake-up call that something is not working as it should, and reacting means investigating and taking active steps to resolve the problem.
But knowing when the problem occurred may not be enough.
To understand this better, let’s look at an example.
We have two buildings experiencing the same situation at the same time: both buildings have a water leak. In the first building, the water leak is detected 2 weeks after it actually started. In the second building, the same leak is detected in just 2 days, thanks to the alarm system in place.
What is the main difference?
Timing, of course. In the first case, the delay in receiving notification of the problem may have prevented quick intervention, with collateral consequences. In fact, it could be more than just the loss of money due to wasted water, but perhaps also damage to the infrastructure.
This is exactly what happened at the Hotel Brussels during the 2020 lockdown: Energis alert system allowed a leak to be identified and repaired in just 2 days, whereas without such a system it would have taken between 1 and 2 weeks or until the utility bill was received.
As Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power”, and that’s the greatest value of implementing energy alerts, because they allow you to know what’s going on in your plant in real-time, in the most efficient way.
Efficient because alerts are only sent when they are relevant to your business needs: no one wants to be bogged down by thousands of notifications.
That’s why Energis.Cloud developed the smart alerts system.
Smart alert system
Energis Cloud has developed a smart alert system using an AI regression model as baseline, which reduces the risk of false positives (an alert is sent when there is no anomaly) and therefore the risk of over-sending alerts, and ensures a high level of reliability. The models of Energis.Cloud take into account multiple factors such as the hour of the day, the day of the week, the holidays, and of course the weather conditions.
But what if the energy behaviour of the site changes, perhaps because the structure is renovated, and it starts to consume less than before? Can the models adapt?
What Energis does is try to detect regime changes for you and create an alert for that.
Basically, we detect when a model is no longer suitable because the site has changed its regime. When that happens, we make a note of it, disable the alerts and wait 12 months since the ‘regime change’. Then we can re-identify a new model and re-enable the alerts.
What’s more, models can be identified on a large scale and applied quickly and automatically to all the sites in your portfolio: you can simply look at the end result and check that the models really do match your site’s consumption.
And if for some reason you want to stop receiving alerts, they can be stopped at any time based on your preferences.
Typology of smart alerts in Energis.Cloud
In Energis.Cloud, there are 3 types of smart alerts that can be sent:
- Alerts related to over-consumption during the occupied hours.
- Alerts related to over-consumption during the unoccupied hours.
- Alerts related to under-consumption during the occupied hours.
As we saw in a previous article, the consumption of a site or building varies greatly between day and night.
At night, we expect consumption to be close to zero because no one is working, and no energy is being used.
By analysing opening and closing times, we are able to uncover hidden consumption that would be impossible to detect with a simple benchmarking analysis.
In fact, by setting these alerts in the 2 split periods, you can be sure that you are really focusing on the periods relevant to your business needs.
As for the third alert, the under-consumption one, this typically means a regime change for the building, and therefore a sign that a new model should be identified (if there is enough data on this new regime).
As well, it may be that savings are being made (which our system can also measure), or there has been a major internal refurbishment that has increased the efficiency of the site.
This will trigger the alerts because the site/building is consuming less than what the model expected.
What is needed to set smart alerts
Firstly, the most important information you need to provide in order to use the alert system is consumption data, including data on company-specific schedules, holidays, special periods, etc.
Data collection is a one-off activity to obtain 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.
Once you have retrieved the energy consumption data of the buildings/portfolio, Energis configures everything in Energis.Cloud identifying and then validating the models.
The sensitivity of the alert is then determined; in fact, the system will show you the percentage of time that the site’s consumption has exceeded a “smart” threshold that depends on the model’s predictions and its accuracy.
With a good model, even a small deviation from the usual situation can be detected. But don’t worry: you’ll only get as many alerts as you can handle. In fact, we will first calibrate the alerts with you to adjust their sensitivity.
Not enough time or resources to manage a lot of alerts? We will only send you the most critical ones.
The last important configuration step is to decide which people will receive the alert notifications: energy project manager, energy manager, facility manager… you simply need to select the email addresses to be included in the list of recipients.
Once this is done, everything is in place and smart monitoring can begin.
The next steps
Once the alert has been sent, and you have received it, you can click on the notification (which appears both in your email inbox and on the Energis.Cloud platform) and this will take you directly to the dashboard to investigate the issue.
When an over-consumption alert occurs, you will have dedicated analysis dashboards to help you understand the cause of the problem. It may be necessary to contact the owner of the problematical site to understand the cause of the issue. The action to be taken can then range from correcting some control parameters to replacing some site equipment.
This allows you to find out if changes have been made to the infrastructure or if there are other causes that need to be investigated.
The alerts are useful for assessing the current situation, but you know that without tracking and monitoring the situation, there will be no significant improvement.
In fact, it is useful to review the number and frequency of these alerts in order to have a weekly or monthly overview of the situation.
The added value that Energis.Cloud brings
Energis.Cloud’s Smart Alert System is powerful because it uses advanced algorithms and machine learning techniques to analyse large amounts of data in real-time and detect patterns, anomalies, or potential threats in the energy consumption of a building or portfolio.
By using real-time data and advanced algorithms based on our AI model, our system is able to identify inefficiencies and send alerts about deviations in consumption, preventing potential problems from becoming major issues.
If reducing your environmental footprint and improving your bottom line is what you’re after, and especially if energy alerts are new to you, contact one of our experts.
We will be glad to help you scale towards sustainability and energy efficiency.