Uncontrolled energy costs could jeopardise a company’s financial sustainability – in fact, energy could be costing some organisations as much as raw input materials. However, in most instances, there are limited resources available to fund energy-saving projects.
Stefan Swanepoel, associate consultant at Pragma and speaker at this year’s Physical Asset Management Conference, comments: “In light of this, an appropriately detailed energy assessment gives an organisation an in-depth understanding of the potential energy savings that could be achieved and how much investment will be required to achieve these desired outcomes.”
“To achieve maximum benefit from an energy audit it must be well planned, executed and validated with a pragmatic view towards finding value adding savings interventions. The audit process includes the development of an audit strategy to the point of prioritising potential savings opportunities. Not only will this process lead to money saving, but also to preserving the planet and its energy resources.”
According to Swanepoel, the approach that needs to be taken includes steps such as the assessment, measurement and analysis of a specific area, the finance, implementation and sustainability of the suggested process, which in effect releases further finance to implement savings projects. “Then use the lessons learned for creating both policy and a wider replication of improvements.”
Assessment steps include a walk-through, site plans and reticulation diagrams, interviews with staff, billing history, tariff structures and selected targets. “You need to understand energy flow as well as account for incoming energy. Building types and its vintage, its location and size are all factors that influence the flow and use of energy. Furthermore, one needs to ask whether the building is on the most cost effective tariff structure and if the billing is accurate.
“Many other factors also need to be taken into account such as power factors, oversized transformers, the pump or fan’s condition, lighting, lifts and escalators, thermal insulations and more.”
The measurement of energy saving can be managed in a variety of ways including online which offers a timely management response to changes and an improved energy consciousness. Monitoring solutions also offer assessment validation, trend analysis, billing reconciliation, management accountability and carbon credits. Swanepoel says: “Analysing these measurements on a weekly and monthly basis will lead management to an improved understanding of the company’s usage patterns, equipment efficiency, tariff suitability and power quality. The analysis is therefore of the utmost importance as it could lead the company to consider moving activities which contribute to peak demand and higher power costs.”
Finances also need to be considered through realistic assumptions, seasonality and economic conditions, cash flow and off balance sheet financing. The final step is the incremental implementation of all the above mentioned factors.
“It’s of paramount importance to follow a structured approach to allow for validation of the incremental changes. Once this is achieved, savings need to be sustained through awareness, accountability, company culture, managed asset care and external audits. This process then needs to be replicated in order to ensure further savings on costs and energy,” concludes Swanepoel.