Energy prices are expected to remain elevated, forcing many businesses to examine their energy usage with the aim of cutting costs to stay competitive or generating value from on-site energy assets.
Managing energy costs with an end-to-end solution, underpinned by data analytics, can be the most cost-effective way to get bills down, according to business-only energy retailer ERM Business Energy.
Executive general manager ERM Energy Solutions Megan Houghton says the upside for a business is that a solution could fund itself in a short period of time.
“From a lighting upgrade with a short-term payback, to integrated monitoring technologies, we handle end-to-end design and delivery of both simple and complex solutions to suit unique business needs,” says Houghton.
“Our data-driven, integrated energy solutions cover assessment, design, supply, installation and support. In most cases, current ERM customers can fund their solutions ‘on-bill’.
“In developing the best integrated solution for a business, data is king. Any solution should start with a full and transparent energy audit so businesses can understand how they’re using energy, identify areas of energy waste and which areas can be targeted for savings,” says Houghton.
An audit will provide a 360-degree view of how a business is using energy. It will identify where the biggest spends are, and how buildings, plant and equipment are consuming energy, allowing evidence-based decisions and prioritisation of energy efficiency actions.
Houghton stresses the importance of undertaking energy initiatives in the right order to ensure the best solution and the best use of capital.
“It’s also important to tackle energy efficiency first if you are interested in the right sized solar system for your business,” says Houghton. She draws the analogy “you should lose the weight before you buy the new suit.”
Data analytics play an increasingly important role in energy management – not only to identify the problem, but to design the best value solution and monitor the outcome.
“We use consumption, tariff, wholesale market and asset data, amongst other data sets, to produce heat maps, product comparisons and portfolio based solutions to aid decision-making. Businesses can make evidence-based decisions to prioritise energy solutions that are right for their business to get the best return and maximise their energy productivity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Houghton says.
ERM has a national footprint, with a client base including state and federal government agencies and some of the country’s largest businesses. As the second largest commercial and industrial energy retailer in the country, ERM Business Energy is delivering tailored solutions across a range of businesses and sectors.
“With one public sector customer, we conducted energy audits across multiple sites identifying savings of 25% on average per site. We are now working with them on an integrated roll out of a combination of technologies including solar, lighting and power factor correction to realise those savings for their business,” says Houghton.
“After years of work with the education sector, we have now formed an education energy solution that recognises their specific needs and usage which includes energy audits, usage alerts, lighting, solar, and a range of other technologies. We have seen energy savings for schools involved to date at around 20-30%.”
Additionally, a large national retailer identified inefficiencies in energy consumption and wanted to address the problem and further reduce energy spend. The ERM team installed data analytics software across several hundred sites and followed up with site-specific plans delivering energy savings.
With its depth of experience in data management and analysis, one of ERM Business Energy’s strengths is its ability to advise businesses operating in multiple locations.
One of its large multi-site customers has benefited from a bespoke energy plan across more than 60 sites to reduce energy spend and integrate different solutions in line with budget cycles and investment appetite.
“These customers join a suite of large national retailers, commercial property owners, government agencies, local councils, hospitals, schools and other businesses all over Australia who have taken a data-driven integrated solution approach.”
Whatever the solution, ERM will work from start to finish with a business to ensure its objectives are achieved. Every customer is different and there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ to efficient energy management or increasing energy productivity.
A tailored solution may be one product or a complementary suite of solutions – it may involve behavioural changes, new technologies or harnessing an existing asset. ERM solutions bring together data analytics, advisory, project management services, solar, lighting, power factor correction, demand response and tariff analysis that work in combination to optimise the savings for businesses. A projection of energy savings and pay-back periods also forms part of a tailored recommendation to customers.
As required, the ERM team manages product fulfilment and installations, and reporting post-installation to monitor the outcome of initiatives.
“It is the expertise offered by ERM in understanding the energy market, partnering with the right suppliers, and understanding the data that can deliver tailored and sustainable outcomes that really make a difference,” she says.
*Article as published in the Australian Financial Review on 26 September 2017.