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Behavioural change the ‘holy grail’ of energy management

Increasing the awareness of energy consumption and latterly carbon emissions at all levels within an organisation is certainly nothing new. Labels applied to light switches and heating controls imploring us to consider the impact of our actions (or lack of the) come in and out of fashion, but their first appearance probably ones more to the availability of sticky labels than professional energy management.

The last few years have seen much debate on the subject. To some, ‘behavioural change’ is the holy grail of energy management, hard to achieve but a fight worth winning. To others, something of a waste of time. What’s the reality? Does an increase level of awareness amongst stakeholders and employees cut consumption and emissions by a useful amount, or is it tinkering around the edges when what you really need is a new boiler and some LED lighting? If it is worth the carrot – how best to achieve it?

Well the proof of the pudding is in the eating perhaps, so the delivery mechanism is the starting point and the monitoring and targeting software, or more accurately an expansion of this well established software has been the method of choice for the practitioners so far. Gone are the days when the Energy Manage and a few favoured lieutenants are the only individuals who build or indeed wanted to log in to the M&T system. Nowadays anyone can do, and we hope everyone wants to.

There have been changes of course. This is M&T join, nut not as we know it. If you’re thinking bar charts, regression analysis, CUSUM or even IPMUP you’d be dead right, but of more relevance to the subject of this article are interactive dashboards, real-time building energy displays, multi-platform compatibility and unlimited user profiles. All of these latter features have appeared relatively recently as customers demand –and get- more from their M&T software, and all are targeted at a wider audience. M&T – from the right provider – is now a ‘big data’ operation. Not just thousands of meters, but thousands of users too if your business is large enough.

The ability to handle the transaction level that a large user base implies is of course crucial, and sluggish response times have been the biggest bugbear with some web-based systems. This isn’t a problem by no means confined to M&T software – and the investment required to address the issue is far from trivial – but slick operation and 100% capture is the foundation onto which a really powerful product can be built, but to do that successfully two hats are needed with the design team. The Energy Manager’s hat is a familiar one, but the wider audience’s hat was more difficult to obtain in a comfortable fit. Although the ultimate aim is the same – reduced consumption and emissions – software for an invited audience rather than a tool for a professional team of of professionals has to look and feel very different.

Early attempts tended to lack the necessary visual appeal and concise presentation that on invited audience demands, but today’s dashboards are both attractive and informative, and in some cases interactive too. The web pages can be tailored for the required ‘corporate’ appearance or combined with interactive building or site diagrams to simplify navigation, and of course are responsive to the media device being used to view them. The first challenge is to get the invited audience to turn up at all. The second is to get them to come back, and good page design is critical. But that’s not delivering behavioural change!

As always, the software is just the tool, and in this instance it’s an effective one but it is how it is used that is key to success. At Elcomponent we’ve seen a great deal of imagination apples to this by our customers but in most cases the software is credit to foster competition, best practice and lowering consumption. This often takes the form of a league table of some kind, which sounds simple, but nevertheless requires a degree of sophistication to deliver. Apples must be compared with apples, so information such as floor area, occupancy and degree data must form part of the equation. If this is not the case, the data will lack credibility and interest will wane very quickly. If all the key ingredients are present though, the results tend to back the enthusiasts view of behavioural change.

What are those ingredients again?

An Attractive presentation (it’s an invited audience)

Cross-platform compatibility (that audience uses smartphones!)

Accurate data (you still need your AMR to be working properly!)

Correct use of driver data (traditional M&T functionality)

The right provider!

So come and see us at EMEX to find out more.

See Elcomponent at stand C74.

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