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Accurate Energy Consumption Data to Become a Public Sector Must

September 2011

  • The Green Energy Act, 2009 introduced a requirement for Ontario's broader public sector organizations to develop energy conservation and demand management plans.
  • Affected organizations must submit a summary of their energy consumption for their 2012 operations by mid-2013.
  • For public sector consumers with multiple locations, the first challenge is having accurate historic consumption information for all sites.
  • Data accuracy can be increased by eliminating manual entry of data. This can be accomplished through the installation of electricity sub-meters and internal data gathering systems, or by gathering data directly from the utilities.

The Green Energy Act, 2009 introduced a requirement for Ontario's broader public sector organizations to develop energy conservation and demand management plans. On July 1, 2013, organizations will be required to report their historic energy consumption for the previous year.

Then on July 1, 2014 public organizations will be required to prepare and publish an Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan. The intent of the plan is to set a benchmark for an organization's energy consumption and to establish goals to reduce consumption. There are detailed reporting requirements that are outlined in a regulation made under the Green Energy Act.

Energy can be a low involvement purchase for many organizations. However, the new regulation brings energy directly into the spotlight, raising organizations' awareness of their consumption and requiring them to set out a course of action to reduce their consumption. To meet the first reporting requirement, organizations must submit a summary of their energy consumption for the previous year's operations. For public sector consumers with multiple locations, the first challenge will be to have accurate historic consumption information for all sites.

There are two key challenges to gathering historic consumption data: the cost and time associated with gathering data and the accuracy of the data. For most organizations, gathering historic consumption data is a manual process. Assuming that most facilities have one natural gas and one electricity account, gathering 12 months of consumption data involves gathering and transcribing 24 invoices for each facility. In an environment of limited resources, this process is time consuming and expensive. The repetitive nature of manual entry often leads to a deterioration of the quality of transcription. Errors, such as transposed numbers, are very common and often difficult to detect.

Manual entry of electricity invoice information is a particular challenge as utilities frequently present two consumption figures on an invoice. The first, measured consumption, represents the amount of actual electricity used at the facility. The second, adjusted consumption, represents both the measured consumption and the utility's line loss adjustment (the quantity of electricity that was lost on the distributor's system in getting the electricity to the consumer). Both consumption figures often appear on electricity invoices and inconsistency in capturing the figures is a common source of error.

This challenge is best illustrated using an example. The chart below shows 24 months of historic consumption for a sample facility. For 12 months, the actual consumption is used and for 12 months, the amount adjusted for 3% line losses appears. As the chart shows, this error in consistency can be difficult to identify.

eleConsumption.jpg

Unfortunately, while the error is difficult to identify the impact is a 3% difference in consumption for half of the time period being analyzed.

Data accuracy can be increased by eliminating manual entry of data. This can be accomplished through the installation of electricity sub-meters and internal data gathering systems, or by gathering data directly from the utilities.

The installation of sub-meters can provide highly accurate and detailed electricity consumption data. The cost associated with installing sub-meters can be high, often limiting this solution to large facilities.

Consumption data can also be gathered directly from the utilities. Some utilities provide online access for consumers to their natural gas or electricity accounts so organizations can view or download their data directly. Alternatively, an organization can engage a third party provider, such as Aegent , to gather historic consumption data. This dramatically reduces the time and cost associated with gathering historic consumption data while eliminating the potential for key punch errors.

Accessing the data is only the first step in the process of developing an energy conservation and demand management plan. The impact of weather on energy consumption as well as methods for identifying high- and low-performing facilities will also be important considerations.

Ontario's Green Energy Act: A Major Shift Read more »