Energy Efficiency Incentives and Energy Management Systems

There’s no doubt retail Facility and Energy Managers are upping the bar with respect to how they operate their facilities efficiently.  But how do they find ways to operate their facilities smarter?

In the past, temperature and lighting controls were held hostage by building managers who had a wide range of independence with respect to adjusting set-points and controlling lighting for comfort.  That type of localized control leads to higher energy usage, by using more cooling or heating than required to meet the comfort needs of the store, and by keeping lighting running before or after the business day whether intentional or not.  Additionally, older “legacy” technologies, like programmable thermostats, do not provide Facility Managers with any means of monitoring the real time operation of their stores at the Enterprise level.

Enter Energy Management Systems (“EMS” ).  An EMS is essentially a computer in the building connected to all of the building’s measurement and control points.  The EMS runs its “sequence of operations” (“SOPs”) continuously.  The SOPs are time and/or event based instructions such as: “Set internal temperature setting at 10pm to 64 degrees” and “Set internal temperature back to 72 degrees at 6am”…

Most EMS systems today permit remote access over a network – the company’s own IP; “the cloud”; wireless; etc.  A remote access EMS provides Energy Managers a virtual portal into the operations of their facilities’ building systems.  Energy Managers can remotely measure and control building operating parameters through the EMS inside the building, and often people within the building are “locked out” of making changes.

With an EMS in place there is a significant opportunity to realize proven energy savings.  However, when it comes to obtaining incentives for EMS there are many obstacles which stand in the way of receiving incentives to offset the cost of EMS itself:

  • How are the savings quantified?  Most EMS-related savings occur primarily from the optimization of HVAC systems.  Those savings often vary from month to month as they are highly dependent on occupancy and seasonal weather conditions.
  • How much savings are you expecting?   EMS is incented through utility “custom” programs which pay for savings on a “kWh” or “kW” basis.  Typically, the customer is required to provide the utility with a reasonable expectation of savings before the project commences.
  • Are you replacing an existing system or truly upgrading the EMS profile in the building?  Most utilities see an upgrade to an existing EMS as a maintenance activity.  Their point is replacing an existing EMS typically does not ADD savings to the building.  You may be eligible for an incentive only when you can document additional control which will result in savings in addition to any existing EMS actions.  Likewise, please know utilities do not typically provide incentives for new construction if they believe the EMS is part of the building’s design or if specific control capability is required by code.
  • How do you prove the savings are persistent?  After the project is completed, the utility will want to know the new EMS is operating in the manner which will provide the savings initially estimated by the customer.   Some utilities may ask for modeling or metering of the energy usage of your building systems using data loggers or perhaps through the newly installed EMS.

There are steps which you can take to help make the process of applying for and successfully receiving incentives for EMS much easier:

  • Get your EMS vendor to “buy in” to the incentive application process.  Ask your vendor if they included any savings estimates as part of their proposal.   Are they prepared to help support you with any energy metering required by the utility?
  • Look at the current operating conditions of your facilities; avoid locations which have old, obsolete or defective HVAC equipment.   You’ll get more savings by replacing old inefficient equipment rather than installing EMS on those units.  Talk to both your EMS and HVAC vendors about installing EMS controls on new HVAC units at the factory.  You’ll save a lot of cash by avoiding the labor cost required to install the new controls in the “field.”
  • Consider performing a “pilot” installation of the EMS prior to a broader roll-out of the EMS throughout your portfolio.  Utilities are more willingly to accept your projects if they can see tangible results from previously installed EMS applications.
  • Timing is everything: Start the discussions with your utility EARLY.  Due to the complexity of EMS projects, the lead time for utilities to approve EMS incentive requests can be as long as SIX MONTHS in advance of you target installation date.
  • Realize every utility has a different spin on EMS projects; what works in Texas may not necessarily work in New Jersey.  While not every utility requires higher order engineered calculations, most will not accept “back of the envelope” calculations.  Finding the right means of conveying the savings to the utility is the key to having utilities accept your EMS projects into their incentive programs

2 responses to this post.

  1. If you have completed your energy audit its not too late to take advantage of the government rebates! Contact us today before its too late!


  2. […] Energy Efficiency Incentives and Energy Management Systems Posted on realwinwin discusses how to use an Energy Management System (EMS) to adjust facility temperatures on a remote basis enabling significant energy savings. […]


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