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Managing your own energy use

Energy management has proven its value time and again. For many businesses, the question is not if they should implement a programme, but how.

Thanks to the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Internet of Energy, businesses can easily monitor and track energy usage and asset performance in real time. This allows them to optimise the use of their energy, improve operational efficiencies and cut their costs.

But what’s the best way to monitor energy in the short and long-term? Do you invest in an in-house energy management department? Should you hire an outside firm to take care of things? Or how about a hybrid solution? There’s a lot to consider.

Taking things in-house

1. Let’s start with the basics

When weighing up energy management options, think about:

  • The size of your operation
  • Your goals in managing your energy better
  • Staff capabilities
  • Your existing infrastructure

These all help inform the decision to build (or continue investing in) a devoted department, or to delegate and bring in an outside service provider.

2. Understanding your options

Aside from the installation and preparation, an energy management programme requires ongoing work to maintain it.

Firstly, you’ve got to collect and analyse the data. Handling this internally means hiring or training staff to turn the data into actionable information. Your wireless networks may also need to be prepped to take on such an internet-heavy application. That could mean upgrading your current system or switching to an improved internet service.

3. Consider the costs

One of the biggest setbacks of an in-house energy management system is the expense.

You’ll have to cover:

  • The cost of implementing and maintaining a system – this ranges from £1.93 ($2.50) to £5.41 ($7) per square foot
  • Salaries and benefits for the required employees
  • Future costs – if the company grows in staff and in space, you may need to upscale the in-house solution

4. Cybersecurity

An equal or even greater concern is the need for additional cybersecurity. Dealing with such high volumes of sensitive data requires:

  • Extensive protection
  • Advanced encryption
  • Additional safeguards against potential hackers and data breaches

For the average business just looking to monitor their energy use, these advanced methods may be outside their capabilities – but ignoring them could have dire consequences.

Outsourcing your energy management

1. The positives of bringing in a third party

Sometimes dubbed as Energy Management as a Service (EMaaS), the external option is proving popular as it takes the arduous job of managing your energy data out of your hands.

When outsourcing, an EMaaS supplier does all the following and more:

  • Data collection
  • Analysis
  • Troubleshooting
  • Security

These are experts, fluent in the energy management system landscape. Their service is convenient, less of a headache for you, and is often cheaper than creating your own in-house team.

2. The negatives of third-party involvement

What you gain by outsourcing energy management, you potentially lose in self-sufficiency and core competencies. Without direct control over the day-to-day running of an energy management solution, you could miss out on:

  • A say in how the solution is used and the information is interpreted
  • The ability to influence the service provider
  • Clear opportunities to spot oversights

Then you have to consider the ever expanding knowledge gap between your company and the contractor:

  • The less control you have over your energy consumption, the more reliant you’ll become on the service provider in the future
  • As technology, methodologies and best practices evolve and grow, so will that knowledge gap
  • Without that understanding, you’re at a distinct disadvantage as you can’t extract the most value from your energy management process

You must also consider the communication delay. With third parties, it’s often harder to act immediately when the energy monitoring system catches an abnormality. This delay can slow down or reduce the efficacy of the system as a whole.

There is another option to consider

It’s clear that in-house energy management systems and EMaaS have their own distinct benefits and drawbacks. So you’ll be relieved to learn that there is a third option that marries the best of both worlds while avoiding the pitfalls. This hybrid energy management system outsources the technology side of things, but brings the answers right to your doorstep.

Introducing inter-house energy management

With the benefits of in-house and out-of-house energy monitoring solutions, inter-house energy management allows you to use a third-party technology to detect, collect and sort the information gleaned from the connected assets.

The better systems also include all the software and hardware necessary to conduct comprehensive energy monitoring, so you can:

  • Gather the data
  • Produce regular usage reports
  • Gain operational insights

Full support for your staff

Asset managers, facility managers and others within your business can quickly learn how to interpret the system’s readings and chart a course for responsive action. They do this with the solution provider’s support and data science services. This assistance is flexible, so you can call for help as much as you want until complete internal fluency has been achieved.

In a nutshell

Inter-house energy management allows you to:

  • Remove the need to hire additional staff
  • Save money by not paying for extra training
  • Establish complete transparency between the in-house and out-of-house management teams
  • Build valuable skills and competencies in-house that can be freely leveraged
  • Seize opportunities to make operational improvements, whilst minimising unforeseen risks
  • Improve operational efficiency
  • Lower energy costs
  • Reduce your company's energy footprint

Ultimately, it delivers a better process for managing your energy. By implementing a system like this, you should see a significant return on investment quickly, without exposing your business to costly system implementations and maintenance.