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  • Rian Sullings

5 Steps to Successful Smart Metering - 4. Take Action to Improve Efficiency

Part 4 in the series on successful smart metering. This series highlights 5 key steps to ensure smart metering projects meet their goals and requirements. These steps are:

1) Define Your Requirements (Posted here 16/01/2017)

2) Choose the Right Solution (Posted here 18/01/2017)

3) Analyse Data and Gain Insight (Posted here 29/01/2017)

4) Take Action to Improve Efficiency

5) Ensure On-going Success

Over the coming weeks I will be posting the final step as an individual article and then compiling all steps into an overarching article.

Step 4) Take action to Improve Efficiency

No smart metering project is truly successful without actions being taken to improve efficiency! Actions = Outcomes. There are three key areas to achieve this efficiency improvement; resource use, labour, and economic.

The most successful projects achieve demonstrable efficiency improvement in all three areas but all successful projects achieve improvements in at least one area. Conversely, unsuccessful projects do not achieve improvements, often as a result of inaction. Users who are missing out on benefits and achievements may be saying “we don’t have the time”, “we don’t have the budget”, or “we have higher priorities than resource use” but are overlooking the fact that taking action is an essential step in the project. Taking action can be a quick and relatively inexpensive step, and once taken, the time of realising savings and reaping rewards begins. With this in mind, consider the actions you should be taking.

The Pareto Principal

One approach to start taking action is to look for the most return for the least input. The Pareto Principal is the concept that a small number of the actions you can take will yield a large portion of your results. This is often referred to as ‘the 80/20 rule’ where 80% of your results can be achieved with 20% of your efforts. This is often a good approach to get big results quickly and with minimal cost. The other 20% of your results or ‘second tier’ improvements can then happen in later stages.

What actions can I take?

The insights you gain from data analysis will enable you to make decisions towards improving efficiency. These decisions will lead to actions.

Target your top users: Keeping the Pareto Principal in mind, your best strategy to action may be to target your highest use equipment. This will vary depending on what type of facility or organisation you are in. Some top users are;

Water: irrigation, air conditioning, cooling towers, cleaning and wash-down facilities, refrigeration

Gas: heating, incineration, boilers, other process equipment

Electricity: heating and cooling, lighting, process equipment, refrigeration

By looking at detailed smart metering data relating to these high use items you may find ways to optimise them. This may involve calibration, repairs, maintenance, or reconfiguration such as start/stop times.

Upgrading Equipment: with smart metering data to back your decisions, it becomes much clearer to see when it’s time to upgrade your equipment. This data can help you calculate ROIs and justify spending the funds available. Often upgrading equipment can address all three 3 key areas of efficiency improvement (resource use, labour, economic). Your regular data reporting can then quickly validate your decision to upgrade and demonstrate the savings and benefits.

Leak Detection and Remediation: when your data analysis indicates a leak may be present, it’s important to take action quickly, even for smaller leaks. While fixing larger leaks is often motivated by simple things such as high water bills, there is much more to consider. Leaks can do far more damage than just bill shock and unnecessarily wasting the world’s resources. Leaks can cause issues such as mould, electrical damage, and structural damage. Who is responsible for WHS in your facilities? What is the implication of a sink hole or damaged building foundations? This is why it is important to address even small leaks that don’t have an immediately high monetary cost. If a car has an oil leak, people tend to get it fixed quickly to avoid damage. Leaking water pipes should be no different.

Leak detection can be extremely accurate, even when the pipe is completely buried underground or deep within walls and ceilings. Smart metering data can assist with to step tests sections of your pipe network are closed off (isolated) temporarily to see if the flow (the leak) stops.

Ground microphones, clamp on flow meters, and acoustic correlators combined with an experienced operator can pin point even very small leaks. This means when it’s time to dig up the pipe, you only need to dig up a 1 square meter area, rather than 5 square meters or more.

Install New Systems: It is much easier to demonstrate the benefits in new systems which reduce your demand on grid supplies with detailed smart metering data showing your demand trends. A factory can quickly determine the value of solar panels. A hospital can quantify the benefits of a rain water harvesting system. A university can start saving water by capturing water used to regularly test fire sprinkler systems. The sooner you implement, the sooner you start realising the benefits and getting your ROI.

SDF Negotiation: Sewer Discharge Factor (SDF) is used to calculate the volume of water that your site does not consume and instead enters the sewer system. The SDF on your water bill may be 20-40% of your spend on potable water use. The exact factor charged to you will be predetermined by your water supplier. These factors are based on bulk sewer discharge data from large numbers of users and then applied evenly across user demographics e.g. users with 20mm water meters, or users with 80mm water meters. This means that if your site does not discharge as much of you water use to the sewer as the rest of your demographic, you may be in a position to negotiate your SDF. Again, smart metering data is a powerful negotiating tool to demonstrate your usage behaviour and achieve a better deal.

SDF negotiations are most common for facilities with water reuse and factories where a large portion of potable water leaves the site as a component of a product but can be achieved for any site that can make a case. Water management firms can assist with this process and negotiate on your behalf for faster results.

Improve Retail Contracts: Smart metering can help users realise areas for cost improvements with different plans or by switching retailers. For example a large gas user under an on-peak/off-peak supply contract with smart metering data can see in detail when their usage is occurring. This becomes a powerful negotiating tool with retailers to improve your existing contract or shop for a new one.

Increase Sub-metering: If your data analysis concludes that you don’t have enough clarity of your resource use to solve problems and make the informed decisions, then increasing the number of metering points may improve your insight. Install new sub-meters and expand the smart metering system to include key branch lines and high usage equipment e.g. cooling towers, wash down facilities and irrigation.

Every day there are multi-million dollar decisions made based on insights gained from smart metering around the world. Taking action to improve efficiency is a fundamental part of any successful smart metering project.

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