The energy management software industry has transformed itself from a novelty to a necessity for building owners and managers in the last few years. The energy management software industry is thriving. It is moving quickly to adapt to a market that is experiencing exponential growth and building owners whose need for performance data has increased tenfold. I asked Michael Best, vice president of software operations for SCIenergy to share his insights on how best to overcome the many obstacles in the energy analytics space.
Matthew Cohen: How can an energy analytics company differentiate itself from its competitors in the current market?
Michael Best: Energy analytics on their own don’t actually change anything; they only give the information to change. End users that pay the fees to get analytics installed and configured need to be committed to make change. Energy analytics companies get the best results when they become the active energy managers for the end users and guide their customers with the help of the analytics to fix the most important things first and hold them accountable with constant communication and reports of their efforts. Once they see the success of their actions, they are much more likely to make policy change from that point forward. The value of an energy analytics company is its outcome, not just its software.
Matthew Cohen: What type of buildings are being underserved by energy intelligence software, and what can the industry do to change that?
Michael Best: There are probably 80 percent of commercial real estate buildings in the market that do not have energy intelligence in them. The reasons could be…
- There is no building management system (BMS) installed.
- The value of the results of energy intelligence does not get acted upon.
- There is no budget to do energy intelligence, fixes or retrofitting.
All of these problems can be overcome.
There are many ways to collect data from a building, such as a simple BMS system that provides scheduling, data collection and control. There are impressive documented savings for a building with a BMS versus those without a BMS.
The value in currency and in kWh from the data is vitally important to prioritize fixes, to show improvement and to measure and verify results.
If real-time miles per gallon is displayed in our vehicles, we change how aggressively we drive because we know it is hurting us in our pocket. This takes behavioral change and accountability. Likewise, if results are shown from energy intelligence and we do nothing, we will save nothing. Results need to be acted upon.
Matthew Cohen: As VP and a team leader, how do you attract and retain top-performing talent in the energy analytics space?
Michael Best: HVAC is moving from being an old-school, manual industry to a “cool” big data industry and is starting to attract younger more technology driven industry.
The younger generation see energy big data analytics as a game changer for the environment, and that is driving the hiring process. The data side is also driving salaries a little higher, which helps retain talent. The sustainability side of buildings is attracting women to a traditionally male career, which is exciting as well.
Matthew Cohen: What do you see as the next frontier for energy analytics?
Michael Best: Integration to preventative maintenance or other CMMS systems via software application programming interfaces (API’s) is imperative and can bring additional checks and balances to help drive the behavioral changes needed.
The addition of the “Internet of Things” excites me immensely. Having the ability to add extra sensor data to analytics brings even more value. Being able to bring lighting, occupancy, plug loads, data center data, security, elevators, audio visual, parking, water management and irrigation, look up pricing, ADR and the smart grid using dashboards and digital signage to display the results in a meaningful non-confusing manner is the next frontier.
Doing all of this and not exposing the building to a security risk is of utmost importance, and one-way communication for the data outbound only is important. There should be no need to reach into a building to get the data, the building needs to send the data only; the rest is done in secure servers.
Matthew Cohen: As a leader in the industry, what is your biggest challenge in keeping pace with changes in technology?
Michael Best: We have only begun the big data analytics revolution, especially with all the additional potential sensors. I believe energy analytics companies can give time back to people running buildings by using technology, analytics and insight to drive savings and be their trusted technology advisors.
There are so many new technologies, new sensors, and communication protocols that they have no time to start to understand it. Let your analytics company do that for you and stay abreast with the growth explosion.
There are multiple barriers to adoption of new technologies — trust, privacy, security, protocols, value propositions and standards — but the opportunities for solutions and outcome services are endless.