Blog

Use energy benchmarking to identify saving opportunities

September 12, 2017

By Susie McMullan

While a handful of energy managers have embraced benchmarking (and love it!), other organizations are slower to get on board. The challenges of benchmarking are often more well known than its benefits. So what’s the draw?

In this post we’ll dive into the following five, practical steps you can take to leverage energy benchmarking to identify savings opportunities, establish achievable energy reduction goals, and stay on budget throughout the year.

  • Utilize energy benchmarks to identify saving opportunities
  • Create monthly energy consumption goals
  • Measure energy consumption goals in real-time
  • Compare real-time goals to monthly benchmarks
  • Identify where to focus time - biggest saving opportunities

Utilize Energy Benchmarking to Identify Saving Opportunities

1. Select a building to benchmark energy use

Compare the energy costs and profiles of buildings in your portfolio and identify one you think may have room for improvement. Look holistically - don’t just evaluate electricity or natural gas use, but rather energy as a whole.

2. Identify a mean annual benchmark for your buildings energy use

Use a tool such as benchmarkmybuilding.com to discover your buildings annual average kBtu. BenchmarkMyBuilding leverages building databases from ENERGY STAR and the DOE to quickly benchmark your annual energy cost and consumption against similar facilities based on a dataset representative of 4.8 million buildings.

Create Monthly Energy Consumption Goals

3. Adjust the mean annual benchmark for monthly consumption values

Once you have an average monthly consumption amount, we’ll need to curve the data. For example, in Louisiana, most commercial buildings use a lot more energy during the hot summer months compared to the cooler winter months. Lucid recommends adding or subtracting a percentage every month based on a curve for your region. You may even use your historical data from the previous year.

Energy is usually represented in kBtu, so before you sum your use you have to convert electricity and gas into kBtu.

For example, let’s say your energy consumption use last year looked like this:

Month
Last year's consumption
Jan20,000 kBtu
Feb20,000 kBtu
Mar25,000 kBtu
Apr25,000 kBtu
May30,000 kBtu
Jun35,000 kBtu
Jul35,000 kBtu
Aug35,000 kBtu
Sep30,000 kBtu
Oct25,000 kBtu
Nov20,000 kBtu
Dec20,000 kBtu

The average over all 12 months is 26,667 kBtu. Using this average and the monthly data above, calculate a ‘curve’ factor that will determine how much the monthly usage shall deviate from the average per every month. You calculate the curve, “c” with this equation:

C = (m-a)/a

Where the average is “a” and the monthly consumption is “m”. Using this equation, the resulting curve factors look like this:

Month
Last year's consumptionCurve factor
Jan20,000 kBtu-0.25
Feb20,000 kBtu
-0.25
Mar25,000 kBtu
-0.0625
Apr25,000 kBtu
-0.0625
May30,000 kBtu
0.125
Jun35,000 kBtu
0.3125
Jul35,000 kBtu
0.3125
Aug35,000 kBtu
0.3125
Sep30,000 kBtu
0.125
Oct25,000 kBtu
-0.0625
Nov20,000 kBtu
-0.25
Dec20,000 kBtu-0.25

Now that you have created your curve, you are ready to create your monthly benchmark goals. By using your mean monthly benchmark, “MBench” and the curve, “c”, you’ll apply the following calculation to every month:

MBench = (c*a)+a

In our example, the monthly benchmark mean, MBench, is 22,000 kBtu. By applying the equation above, we’ll get the following results:

Month
Curve factorBenchmark
Jan-0.2518,000 kBtu
Feb-0.2518,000 kBtu
Mar-0.062522,500 kBtu
Apr-0.062522,500 kBtu
May0.12527,000 kBtu
Jun0.312531,500 kBtu
Jul0.3125
31,500 kBtu
Aug0.3125
31,500 kBtu
Sep0.125
27,000 kBtu
Oct-0.0625
22,500 kBtu
Nov-0.25
18,000 kBtu
Dec-0.2518,000 kBtu


Now instead of applying the monthly mean, 24,000 kBtu to every month, we have created a curve of the building’s monthly use that is based on weather, occupancy and other variables that change from month to month.

Measure Energy Consumption Goals in Real-Time using BuildingOS

4. Create a Benchmark meter

Create a manual meter for that building called, “Benchmark Meter” and upload this calculated monthly benchmark data created above.

5. Create Actual Energy use meter

The next step is to create a calculated meter in buildingos.com that combines both Utilities meter’s into one meter. To combine the building’s total electricity use and gas use, you must first convert both gas and electricity monthly use into kBtu and then add them together.

Compare Actual Energy use to the Benchmark meter to discover total savings opportunity

Create a dashboard and add a two-points trend card comparing the two meters mentioned above, (1) Actual usage (2) Benchmark meter. This will help you understand on a monthly basis how well you are doing relative to an industry standard as well as help you determine total savings opportunities.

Identifying Where to Focus Time

This is where all the hard work begins to pay off! With your eye on the target, insight into actual consumption, and the ability to drill into what’s working and not working - you’re now empowered to to focus your time on the most impactful projects.

Once you get to this point, there are many different energy reduction tactics and strategies you’ll begin to uncover. We’ll continue to share some of the energy stories we hear, but we’d love to hear from you too. Simply send us a note at communications@luciddg.com and we’ll share your ideas on our blog!

Susie McMullan

Susie, a Senior Project Manager, is one of Lucid’s resident energy czars with a background in chemical and mechanical engineering. Prior to working at Lucid she founded TritonAMI, a technology, engineering and consulting company that helps water, gas and electric utilities manage complex data and operate more efficiently.

Find insights and identify savings opportunities with our free benchmarking tool.