According to the Department of Energy, in the United States alone, commercial buildings consume 70 percent of all electricity. How devices, equipment and systems are being used and managed inside of corporate facilities has as much of an effect on energy consumption as building design. For example, the IT plug load ― all of the equipment plugged into an outlet that is an IT device ― is responsible for the consumption of 25 to 40 percent of an enterprise’s total commercial building energy, depending on the type of business.
Facility managers are being faced with an entirely new set of energy-related challenges and without the necessary visibility into their energy consumption, they’ve struggled to make effective decisions about the overall energy use and efficiency of their buildings.
Previously, building-management systems have conducted most enterprise energy management. However, just as technological advances have made the physical office worker more virtual, physical boundaries such as buildings and campus locations are giving way to borderless IT networks and a broader community of business devices. This can be a challenge for facilities departments or energy managers tasked with controlling and reducing the rising costs and demand for energy across the enterprise. After all, if they can’t see the energy being consumed by various IT devices, equipment and systems throughout the enterprise, how can they lower it?
Trends Will Quickly Turn into Reality
Although 2012 represented a year filled with major advances and awareness in terms of commercial energy efficiency, problems still exist. Simply put: Energy management is not implemented enough in commercial facilities.
However, predictions indicate that more and more projects aimed at better controlling and reducing energy consumption are on the immediate horizon as organizations become aware of, and act on, these key energy-management trends for 2013:
• Collaboration Between Facilities and IT Will Be Essential: The gap between IT and Facilities will continue to close as both groups realize the need to work together to identify energy hogs and implement energy management across the enterprise. Facility managers are looking at ways to implement energy-saving strategies, and IT departments are trying to maximize the effectiveness of the energy they use ― these two groups with different goals will increasingly see the need to collaborate.
• The Drip, Drip, Drip of Energy Will Need to Be Plugged: The IT-connected world is like billions of leaky buckets seeping energy all day and night. There are billions of devices in use, and combining those with other things such as security, badge systems, and cameras only makes that number double. When you extract the energy wasted by these devices, it is enormous. The network is, and will continue to be, the best way to manage this waste. It is a great homogenizer because it touches everything.
• Energy Output Must More Closely Align with Occupants’ Needs: Enterprise energy-management will increasingly focus more on following the productive user. In a business environment, energy is made available to users for one reason and one reason only: to provide those users with an efficient and reliable environment to be productive. It only stands to reason that if a user is not present in a building or facility, it is a waste of the company’s valuable resources to provide their area with energy for the lighting system, heating and cooling, VoIP phone, or for their computer to operate. This is the equivalent of leaving a car idle in the parking lot when it’s not needed.
• Culling and Parsing Big Data Will Increase Visibility: More enterprises will see the value in using data to improve energy efficiencies, manage energy consumption and harness related costs. A vital component to energy management is access to the right data in the right format. The ability to exchange and access high-quality data within a single system will only facilitate the production of the actionable intelligence needed to create truly real-time energy management in facilities.
• IT Plug Load Will Become Part of the Big Picture: Often it’s not the building’s design that impacts actual energy performance, but the devices and equipment used in that building ― and how the occupants use them ― that really counts. IT devices, from PCs and monitors to printers and VoIP phones, all contribute to making buildings leading energy users (and wasters). While facility managers have good visibility into the energy consumption associated with systems such as HVAC and lighting, energy intelligence for the IT plug load is another story ― making it the variable and the big unknown. Enterprises will begin to see the value of a holistic picture of energy consumption across the enterprise and look at the IT plug load with other systems to produce a building-wide view of energy usage and potential cost savings.
New Solutions Provide a Single Pane of Glass
The only way to guarantee that energy in an enterprise is utilized as efficiently as possible is to monitor, measure and control not only the IT infrastructure, but also the building-management systems and industrial controls.
Previously, solutions to manage energy consumption and utilization at the IT-device level have been cost prohibitive, inadequate and difficult to implement. Today, this is changing for the better. With technology available now, enterprises can transition their energy-management approach from “always on” to “available when needed” without impeding employee and business productivity or service level agreements (SLAs). The results of this shift include significant cost savings, reductions in carbon emissions and increased visibility into energy consumption that can aid in capacity planning and policy decisions.
New enterprise energy-management solutions are providing a consolidated energy utilization dashboard for every network-connected device in the enterprise (both IP- and non-IP-enabled). This delivers unprecedented “global” visibility into the energy consumption and utilization of every device, system and facilities asset connected to the network.
Energy is Fast Finding Its Way to Top Executives
Not surprising, the topics of efficiency and sustainability have found their way into the corporate boardroom as companies are driven by pressures from their constituents (customers, partners, shareholders), the government and even by financial incentives to reduce their energy needs today, to help ensure cleaner, more plentiful resources for tomorrow.
Network devices, HVAC systems, servers and other data storage equipment all contribute to making buildings leading energy users (and wasters) — and significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, by 2025, buildings are predicted to be the single largest energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases on the planet.
A 2012 Deloitte study found that 85 percent of businesses think reducing electricity costs is essential to staying competitive from a financial perspective. The importance of managing and streamlining energy use is no longer limited to building and facility managers ― it’s reaching building owners and business executives with increasing frequency. Top executives understand that energy consumption is not just a line item on the budget any longer, but a competitive advantage for those who manage it effectively.