Staying Ahead of the Curve
Like many other local governments, the Region of Peel is a substantial consumer of water, natural gas, and electricity. In 2004, to effectively manage these utilities, Peel Regional Council established the municipality’s first energy management division.
The Region of Peel is a municipal government consisting of two major cities, (Mississauga and Brampton) and one town (Caledon) immediately adjacent to the City of Toronto. With a population of more than one million, The Region of Peel is the second largest municipality in Ontario.
“The Region of Peel operates in an increasingly complex energy marketplace, one where municipalities need to make highly informed decisions about how their energy is purchased, consumed and managed,” says Steven Hall, Peel’s director of corporate energy. “In Peel Region, we have established a dynamic energy strategy to help meet our energy needs; a corner stone of this strategy is our use of Itron’s Enterprise Energy Management [EEM] Suite of software.”
In 2004, The Region of Peel contracted with Itron for the company’s EEM software. The municipality now employs the software to track energy use across many of its municipally owned and operated facilities as well as to help forecast future energy needs. With an annual energy bill of more than $47 million, the energy management software helps such large energy consumers as Peel in identifying specific areas to target for energy efficiency improvement, utility billing accuracy, control systems, and the optimization of procurement of energy from suppliers.
“With multiple facilities spread over 225 square kilometers (more than 760 square miles) of territory,” says Hall, “Peel Region required a robust energy management system with data analysis and reporting capabilities to proactively manage energy consumption and costs.”
According to Hall, Peel had sophisticated interval meters and utility bill data at its disposal, but until Itron it had no real way of precisely examining and reporting on its energy profile.
While the intention is to expand Peel’s already extensive utility metering network, much of the municipality’s efforts have been geared toward building its comprehensive energy database. “It’s one thing to get the software up and running” says Hall, “but Peel also dedicated itself to collecting and uploading a minimum of two years worth of historical utility data into the database.”
The efforts are already paying dividends. The software utilizes billing validation and verification procedures that have helped the Region of Peel identify over $3.8 million worth of billing recoveries charged to its utility accounts. The savings, Hall says, directly benefit Peel residents by ensuring that tax dollars are spent wisely and more efficiently.
The historical energy data also play a pivotal role in performing a host of energy management operations, particularly load forecasting for procurement purposes. Peel Region is well under way in setting up EEM Suite’s advanced forecasting tool MetrixND, an industry-leading software system for predicting the energy requirements of large-scale enterprises. With this software, Peel will be capable of forecasting daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly energy needs, as well as potential peak demand periods and associated energy costs.
With exceptionally accurate, detailed forecasts derived from historical energy data, the Region of Peel will be well positioned to procure its future energy needs, limiting the municipality’s exposure to volatile energy prices. Once Peel establishes its procured price for each energy commodity, this financial information cycles back into the municipality’s budgeting process, helping each corporate program establish its energy costs for the year and plan its financial resources around this fiscal information.
Building a complete historical database of regional energy use proved to be the most challenging job for Peel. “It is not something every customer of this system would do” suggests Hall. “This was a business decision made by the Region given its extraordinary financial value and particular importance to Peel’s long-standing budgetary integrity.”
Setting clearly defined and stable energy budgets is critically important to today’s municipalities. “As with any public agency” says Hall, “when funding is limited, an unexpected increase in energy costs during the fiscal year could mean financial cuts to integral programs in order to compensate for the additional energy costs. This underscores the importance of proper energy budgeting and the role energy management software plays in this integral financial process.”
Monitoring Critical Variables
Itron’s EEM Suite is primarily energy management application software. Itron has launched a new 3.6-version upgrade of its EEM Suite program, which has been in development for close to one year. One of the main new enhancements in this version is a greenhouse gas tracking component. The software basically takes the energy data and approximates how much carbon dioxide a company’s energy usage is generating.
The program recognizes five or six different greenhouse gases resulting from energy use. Examining energy data from the mix of places from which energy is derived, such as various utilities, reveals a direct correlation of how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that user is responsible for, explains Jason Cannava, product manager with Itron.
Itron sells automated meter reading (AMR) technology, meters, systems for collecting data from meters, and software that manages the data. The software also contains a few other new features that help the environment. The Energy Star feature of EEM Suite enables customers to submit their energy, billing data, or built-in data so that the energy use for the past six months can be compared to a database of other buildings to see how it compares to those other buildings in energy efficiency.
“The new feature makes it all automated,” says Cannava. “All the data is in our system, and basically there is an automated interface with Energy Star. You can send information to Energy Star; they'll crunch the numbers, send them back, and you can see in the application what the rating was.”
Previously this would have been done as a manual export and then sent as an e-mail attachment to Energy Star. They would get information back to the client—information that would then be loaded into the system.
“The end-user space is a big growth area for Itron right now, and the development of EEM Suite has been focused on meeting the needs of these customers,” says Cannava. The original product has been around since 1998. The new version updates technology and functionality alike, according to Cannava. “We’ve not reached the point where we are dealing with carbon or energy ‘credits,’ but I think this is one direction that we’re heading toward, where people are able to balance out what they’re producing with what is being offset when it comes to the environment.
“The first step is knowing what you are responsible for producing. At this point there are no real values assigned to carbon credits, therefore no real costs for generating carbon dioxide. But that is the big discussion going on right now.”
A Large, Complex Community
The Region of Peel is preparing for the upcoming Itron EEM upgrade to version 3.6. “One thing we are especially looking forward to with this new version is the added functionality,” says Hall. “Not only will the software help Peel Region monitor the results of energy conservation measures, but it will also help us identify any greenhouse gas reductions that are associated with the energy improvements.”
The Region of Peel is also helping to reinforce the connection between energy use and water consumption. Corporate energy is working closely with Peel’s own Water Smart Peel program, which is responsible for encouraging water efficient practices and incentives throughout the municipality.
“Corporate energy is delighted to partner with such a successful group as ‘watersmart Peel,’” says Hall. “Through energy analysis, we can demonstrate how energy has an unmistakable connection to the process of treating and pumping municipal water. Therefore, the more Peel Region encourages water conservation, the more we can reduce our energy consumption for the municipality. It’s a win-win scenario.”
The treatment and delivery of water is the most energy-intensive process the Region undertakes, using some two thirds of the entire energy consumption of the municipality. “Peel Region actively communicates to residents and businesses that when we save water, we also save energy and reduces greenhouse-gas emissions that contribute to climate change. It's that simple. By using one resource wisely, we achieve a range of environmental benefits.
Efforts are also under way to expand the use of the energy management software to one of Peel’s local area municipalities. The Town of Caledon, located on Peel’s northern border, will work alongside members of Peel’s corporate energy team to capitalize on the EEM Suite of solutions.
“We are pleased that the Town of Caledon has decided to also utilize the Itron system and energy management experience we’ve built here in Peel Region.” By partnering with Peel, Caledon will now have an energy management system that combines a set of powerful software tools to manage energy and water usage in a single internet-based solution that can be shared across multiple facilities.
Handling a County's Buildings
The County of Los Angeles has an energy policy which is attempting to reduce its usage by 20% by the year 2015. The county purchased its EEM Suite in 2001. It had no meters in any of its buildings when it obtained the software. Then, through the use of its own electricians, it started installing meters and now has them at approximately 125 sites—large buildings of over 100,000 square feet—where meter data is being received. Metering is done on electricity use and some natural gas. A few of the boilers are on digital NG meters.
The pulse data coming off its utility, Southern California Edison, goes straight into the EEM Suite, and the trends are done daily, weekly, and monthly, including all the history stored from the time the meters were installed. Profiles of the buildings and energy usage including peaks and valleys are observed.
L.A. County also has a rate module that enables it to compare the usage against the rate engine to check the bill. “That’s just one of the abilities we have,” says Brian Roberts, system section manager, who handles all building automation and automation controls. “It’s taken us some three to four years to get the majority of our buildings on meters connected. We had to work with the utilities to give us customer connections so we could pull the data off their meters.”
There are a lot of recording modules that L.A. County is able to use to compare usage for one week against another or one year against another year. The data comes up on easily read, printed charts (Figure 1) that can also be easily exported into Excel files.
Another way the county uses the EEM Suite is by integrating many of its building automation systems, including DDC controls, and taking those data points and mapping them to produce history trends on some 70 buildings.
“This way, chilled water temperature against outside air temperature may be studied, as well as the tons of output air being produced by a central plant. It’s useful to see the way it produced this amount based on what is in the outside air or previous months’ tonnages,” says Roberts. “We can use those tools mainly for when we do retro-commissioning on a building. The way that works is we go into a building and go back and commission it to the original design intent using those points and data in place. Therefore, we have a tool to help us calibrate and model the building for its usage in the baseline condition in which we found it, when we started the commissioning. After we run an optimized model on the building, it shows us what our expected consumption should be after that. The new model sets the baseline condition for future consumption.”
Another component for which L.A. County uses EEM for is electronic bill data. With some 4,500 electrical accounts and 900 gas accounts, the bill data is derived electronically from the utility where it is automatically processed into the EEM application. The county can actually compare bills against usage, look at HVAC, and perform some sub-metering in which different loads—such as lighting, plug-load, or usage in a building—can be separated out.
“We can pick up every component in the central plant to see what its usage is,” says Roberts. “This can be done either singularly or as an aggregate amount of the plant. This is real-time data—15-minute average data, typically. With our meter data being accumulative, we can always go from the beginning of the month to the end of the month or bill date end to study the accumulated kilowatt hours.”
This is being done on approximately 150 buildings across the county's inventory, starting with the larger consumers and working down to mostly time-of-use buildings, where the impact is on peak and it’s more cost-effective to monitor. L.A. County currently has many projects—including retrofits, lighting projects, and retrocommissioning—that are all being monitored with its Itron EEM Suite.
The county could eventually tie water metering into the system, according to Roberts. “We don’t have post meters on the water as of now. But this is something that is most likely coming as drought conditions in southern California and the Southwest increase.
“L.A. County plans on going to version 3.6 sometime later in the year. I’d really like to do that soon, as there are some beneficial environmental features, such as emission reports and bill maintenance, that we could definitely use to help us track a number of items. If you happen to have done some retrofits on a building and cut back energy usage, this new module can convert that to greenhouse-gas information showing how those have been cut back. The state has had a major push lately to reduce greenhouse gases and to get a better handle on control of electricity in the wake of deregulation.”
In a University Setting
When Stanford University purchased the Itron EEM Suite several years ago, the benefit was the ability to gather all the university’s meter information into one place and make it Web-accessible, providing more openness and access to the data. The EEM Suite has allowed Stanford to bring four different databases together. Stanford has two energy management control systems, an electrical distribution monitoring system, and a monthly utility database that is fed into the EEM Suite for approximately 90 of the campus’ larger buildings.
For those buildings, electricity, steam, chilled water, and domestic water points are in the EEM Suite. Stanford worked with Itron to create a tool for identifying and notifying maintenance managers when excessive use is occurring in a building. For electricity, Itron had already developed an expected-use algorithm in which recent history on a building is used to compare against the last day of use. If use is out of sync with a threshold which has already been set up, an e-mail alert is sent to a maintenance manager.
“But instead of basing chilled water and steam alerts on recent performance, we wanted to base it on some independent variable, such as outside air temperature,” says Susan Kulakowski, campus energy manager for Stanford University.
“By using student interns who studied our historical data collected in the EEM Suite, we’ve developed a number of algorithms to calculate an expected usage for steam or chilled water in a building based on outside air temperature or heating degree days. If the consumption for that day exceeds the expected amount by a certain threshold, which we’ve set at 20%, we’ll actually get notification and alert sent to the maintenance manager so that they can take a look at the situation and follow up appropriately.
“Itron set up the recording tool for the excessive use alerts. The students are the ones who’ve done the data analysis to come up with the relationship between weather and steam consumption and chilled water consumption. We can then enter the algorithm into the tool and start using it to evaluate whether use has been what we consider excessive or normal.”
That ability has enabled Stanford to discover some operational problems and correct them. These may not have been discovered otherwise, or discovered later, according to Kulakowski. For example, the school started getting alerts for chilled water in the middle of winter.
The alerts revealed a sudden increase in a building’s chilled-water use from one day to the next, with use staying high for a week even though the outside weather was fairly cool. It turned out that the technicians had placed the building in freeze protection mode due to an expected overnight freeze. But they’d neglected to take it out of that mode, and the system was not taking advantage of cool outside air with the economizer cycle. We were able to catch and correct that glitch within a few weeks,” says Kulakowski. “Whereas, without the EEM in place, it’s hard to say how long it would have been before it was noticed.”
Because of the way Stanford has set up its system with Itron, the school is only pulling whole building meter information into the EEM Suite. Stanford is already monitoring such things as air handlers through its energy management control system.
Stanford’s IT staff will be enabled to use some security enhancements with the 3.6 version of EEMS, according to Kulakowski. “It will allow us to upgrade the OS and use the next version of Microsoft Web Server, which will allow EEM Suite to run smoother and be more secure,” she
Peter Hildebrandt writes extensively on engineering and scientific subjects.