Deciphering Industrial Energy Management Systems

The journey toward energy management excellence requires a tiered and tactical approach. It takes time to develop a sustainability-oriented culture, energy management systems, and a supporting industrial energy management (IEM) IT architecture. Each of those areas has its own complexities that can cause confusion if not properly researched and understood. For this article, I’ll focus on shedding some light on one area in particular: energy management systems.
While software streamlines processes and consequently facilitates improvements on energy KPIs, the adoption of an energy management solution may come up short of expectations without the proper energy management system in place. Fortunately for companies new and mature, a considerable amount of research has been done in this space. Many organizations have developed systems of management around continuous improvement, reporting, efficiency, and more.

How to Define Energy Management Systems

To start the analysis, it may be worthwhile to offer a definition for the term “energy management system.” There are a number of definitions in the marketplace today, some of which zero in on the software and systems that manage the generation and distribution of energy across the grid and others that focus on the processes that industrial energy users implement behind the meter to be more efficient.

It’s in this second context that best applies to the LNS Research Industrial Energy Management Framework. One of the definitions we find most useful is provided by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). It states:

“An energy management system is a series of processes that enables an organization to use data and information to maintain and improve energy performance, while improving operational efficiencies, decreasing energy intensity, and reducing environmental impacts.”

Energy Management Systems Used Today

Before putting an energy management system in place, industrial companies have numerous competing voices and resources to rifle through. These include government agencies, utilities, non-government organizations (NGOs), service providers and technology providers. Most of this work has centered on either the management systems themselves (plan, do, check and act) or energy efficiency technologies (lighting, HVAC, refrigeration, boilers, combined heat and power, compressed air and more).

A few examples of leading voices and resources for the energy management field are listed below:

  • ENERGY STAR provides industrial companies with best practices resources, benchmarking tools, networking opportunities, and recognition programs for energy management systems. Some of the strengths of the ENERGY STAR best practices and benchmarking tools are that they are built off of proven best practices for business process, such as plan, do, check, and act. ENERGY STAR’s benchmark data is also industry-specific, which is often one of the biggest challenges for any company looking to benchmark operations.
  • The International Organization for Standardization is a well-established not-for-profit. It has a long history in the development of management systems, most notably the ISO 9000 family of standards for Quality Management. Most ISO standards, including ISO 50001, build upon the same model of continuous improvement to make it easier for integrating different areas of the business into a common improvement process.
  • ISO 50001 is a voluntary standard that focuses on the management of energy use and consumption, providing best practices and information on measurement, documentation, and reporting. It also offers design and procurement strategies for energy-related equipment, processes, and systems. The standard is intended to be a flexible framework that’s easily adaptable into industrial operations.
  • The DOE provides similar resources to ENERGY STAR, including best practices resources, benchmarking tools, networking opportunities and recognition programs for energy management systems. Some of the strengths of the DOE include its broad set of research on energy consumption and industrial assessments as well as how it’s built upon and extended the industry standard put out by ISO with the Superior Energy Performance program.

Putting Energy Management Systems to Use

It should be noted that the above information on the energy management systems ecosystems is a high-level overview. There are many other organizations that offer resources for managing energy use and consumption and overcoming energy management challenges. At LNS Research, a main focus for our 2013 research is on industrial energy management software. Without a planned out strategy, which includes energy management systems, the risk of failed IEM implementations becomes greater.

If the area of energy management is new to you, the good news is you’re educating yourself on a dynamic and evolving industry that is still in its nascent stage, so catching up won't be as challenging as you may think. As is the case with any management system, it’s important to begin capturing critical information and changing culture, even if in just a manual system of record, as soon as possible to facilitate future benchmarking and continuous improvement efforts down the road.

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