Building tenants using real-time data to manage energy costs

Large corporate tenants and property owners are aggregating data on energy use across their building portfolios and using it to purchase power at favourable rates, an innovation that also minimises consumption, a leading supplier of energy technology says.

Large corporate tenants and property owners are aggregating data on energy use across their building portfolios and using it to purchase power at favourable rates, an innovation that also minimises consumption, a leading supplier of energy technology says.

At least one large Australian telecommunications company and major retailer with large cold storage facilities were using "real time" data from their buildings to purchase power in the spot market and move in and out of contracts, Gareth O'Reilly, vice-president for buildings with Schneider Electric Australia, said.

Schneider is one of several large proprietary players in Australia, including Honeywell, Siemens and Johnson Controls, that develop and supply integrated hardware and software systems to manage a building's energy use.

Soaring energy costs were prompting more property owners to introduce smart technology to cut their energy use, Schneider's strategy manager, James Keegan, said. "Price rises over the past couple of years have really put this on the agenda. It's on their balance sheet now," Mr Keegan said.

The mandatory NABERS rating system was driving the need for commercial building managers to gather data on their electricity, gas and water consumption, said Dean Mynott, director of Ronin Building Controls.

"It is tremendously important that the data be useful and transportable between energy management software packages so that current and future users of the data can employ it for strategic decision making," Mr Mynott said.

Most buildings need to adjust their energy use in reaction to changing external or internal conditions, such as a workforce arriving in the morning or shifts in the weather.

Many do so after those events occur but the technology is now available with cloud-based platforms to allow real-time "interpretive and predictive" management of a building's energy use.

One major retailer was prepping its cold storage systems before major weather events as well as pre-purchasing power allocations, Mr O'Reilly said.

"If we connect this facility to the cloud and tie it into analytical platforms measuring the energy/mass balance of a building at particular times of day, it can be predictive," he said. "'We've got facilities where we have taken over the aged infrastructure, refurbished, applied these technologies ... and seen up to 50 per cent savings," he said.

But Mr Mynott said when a tenant was paying the outgoing expenses for a building there was little motivation for a building owner to invest in automation or control systems.

sjohanson@fairfaxmedia.com.au