The future of energy management is data-driven, and companies who seize the opportunity early can make significant financial gains and create competitive advantage. Today’s energy management technology offers a whole new level of insight into energy use. It’s all about getting the right information into the hands of the right people at the right time – and the organizations that can do this well will have the edge.

Big data touches almost every aspect of our lives. Around 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the past two years alone.[i] By 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet[ii], and there will be 20.8 billion “connected things” online.[iii]

The amount of data we’re producing is mind-boggling – and it’s becoming increasingly valuable in helping businesses make smarter decisions. However, data hasn't typically played much of a role in helping enterprises measure and manage the tens of billions of dollars they spend on energy each year globally.

Historically, energy management initiatives have been stymied by a lack of data. Building managers have relied mainly on utility bill data, with other data locked in silos and legacy building systems using proprietary protocols that make data extraction difficult.

But today things are changing. Energy management is evolving to encompass data analysis and active energy management, and – even further – to enable organizations to drive efficiencies and optimize their operations.

Thanks to progressively intelligent software, increased computing power, and lower costs of connectivity and hardware such as sensors, energy data can now be extracted from multiple sources – bills, meters, sub-meters and increasingly from equipment. This new level of insight and information, which includes real-time, granular data, allows building and facility managers to make informed, intelligent and proactive decisions about energy usage for the first time.

A data-driven approach to managing building energy performance

Data is the key to optimizing the energy performance of your buildings. It should underpin all your energy management efforts – from validating energy bills, developing maintenance plans and finding faults, to benchmarking buildings within your portfolio, selecting new technologies and planning energy investments.

But data alone is not enough. Collecting energy data is almost useless without being able to analyze and act on those insights. Creating an optimized energy strategy is about bringing dispersed data together into a single system and extracting actionable information.

When it comes to analytics, one of the most important considerations is how you will act on information to drive results. To support this, forward-thinking organizations are moving away from the use of multiple dashboards and reports that they, in turn, need to analyze. Instead, they’re using intelligent software to access relevant, real-time information that allows them to prioritize and take action immediately – rather than in the following week when it shows up in a graph on the back page of a report.

When it comes to adopting a data-driven energy management strategy, where do you start? Here are five key steps:

  1. Clarify Goals: Your Energy management objectives should be informed by your business objectives, there is no point saving energy if you fail to achieve tenant comfort or critical-system reliability. You need to maintain sight of what you are trying to achieve so you can focus on the right opportunities.
  2. The Right Data: The idea of getting reams of data can be seductive, but more data does not equate to more energy savings. Too much data can lead to “alert overload” and have the opposite effect of disengaging the very people you are relying on to take action. Focus on getting data that matters.
  3. Preference Open Technologies: There is nothing more frustrating that having data but not being able to access it. Always preference technologies that adopt “open” communications standards such as BACnet to ensure you and your partners can access data with minimal cost and effort.
  4. Leverage Software: Harness the power of software technology to do the heavy lifting and unlock the value hidden inside your data. Be sure to go beyond features and functionality when assessing your options to the people and support processes behind the scenes. Will the technology meet your current and future needs?
  5. Engage People: Data and analytics can uncover great potential to reduce your energy demand and consumption, but true value is not created until people convert insights into action. Combine technology with the right people and processes to be successful.

Energy management is changing – seize the opportunity!

 The future of energy management is data-driven, and companies who seize the opportunity early can create competitive advantage. Now is the time to act. Now is the time to start viewing energy not only as a controllable cost, but also as an opportunity to unlock valuable insights, optimize operations and propel your business forward.

[i] IBM (http://www-01.ibm.com/software/data/bigdata/what-is-big-data.html)

[ii] IDC (file:///Users/rubylohman/Downloads/Media_Presentation_2012_DigiUniverseFINAL1.pdf)

[iii] Gartner (http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3165317)