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If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it

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Increasingly, companies are waking up to the challenges of delivering sustainable objectives, especially in light of our current energy crisis. From emissions trading to proving cost reductions – businesses need reliable and accurate information.

According to Douglas Weinrich, Regional Executive at Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions South Africa: "The first step in any corporate energy management programme is to determine total energy usage and spend. This is not only necessary to set realistic goals. It is also critical to document the success of the programme both internally and for external stakeholders."
But identifying the amount of energy being used is not as easy as it sounds. Historically, energy meters have been manually read at variable times. This method of data collection is time consuming, costly and susceptible to human error. Using a central database of utility consumption can help.
"If businesses want in-depth, accurate energy usage information, smart metering is the way forward. By recording energy consumption on a regular basis, every half hour for instance, new metering technologies allow the user to establish a true pattern of energy usage and help identify any unusual trends," says Weinrich.
With this information, businesses can identify quick wins to reduce electricity, gas and water consumption, such as stopping water leaks. Metering also highlights malfunctioning equipment, areas of wastage, unusual peak loads and unauthorised usage.
In trials with major multi-site businesses one smart metering solution detected errors of over 60% on some gas bills and nearly 50% on some electricity demands. There is, of course, a cost associated with this type of technology, but for as little as a R294 000.00  investment, metering can produce annual savings of hundreds of thousands of rands running into millions of rands.
After clarifying energy consumption, the next step in an energy management programme is bill validation. Often, when companies are asked for the last year's energy bills, the request is often met by a stunned silence. But it's a worthwhile process and the facts speak for themselves.
It is expected that energy prices are going to increase significantly in South Africa. It is therefore prudent for businesses to look towards responsible energy management.