- Rian Sullings
5 Steps to Successful Smart Metering - 5. Ensure On-going Success
This article is Part 5 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 (Posted here 06/02/2017)
5) Ensure On-going Success
Next week I will be compiling each individual article into one master article. The final article will contain additional content and will tie the 5 steps together.
Step 5) Ensure On-going Success
Successful smart metering requires on-going commitment. It is not simply a matter of installing hardware or buying a software licence. As your utility resource use continues and evolves, so should your smart metering practices.
The fifth step to successful smart metering is to create and implement a plan to continue to drive insights and outcomes towards improved resource use, labour, and cost efficiency. Your plan should address these ten aspects:
· Allocation of Resources (people, finances and time)
· On-going Analysis of Data to Gain Insights
· On-going Action to Improve Efficiency
· Measurement and Verification
· KPIs and Benchmarks
· Strive for Continuous Improvement and Refinement
· Expert Advice and Consultation
· Sharing Results and Promoting Success
Allocation of Resources
Consider what is required to ensure on-going success with your smart metering system. People will need to be involved to oversee the operation of the system. This may be staff tasked with ensuring operations run efficiently. It may be stakeholders with an interest in the outcomes of managing utility expenses. It may be a sustainability officer tasked with ensuring water and energy consumption stay in line with targets. It may be an external consultant tasked with engaging with all stakeholders and guaranteeing success across multiple areas of your organisation.
Consider the on-going costs of smart metering operation and allocate budget accordingly.
On-going Analysis of Data to Gain Insights
This 5th step, Ensuring On-going Success, requires continuously analysing data as described in the 3rd step. This analysis will again feed into taking action to improve efficiency.
Once a smart metering system is installed, it will continue to generate data on your utility resource use. As your usage changes, so does your data. The below graph shows exactly what can happen if smart metering data is not analysed regularly.
A small leak started to form within the facility in late September. This leak increased over the following weeks up to 26 litres per minute when it was finally realised on the 6th of December. 26L/min is equivalent to four taps being left completely open with water gushing out and a monetary cost of $10,000 for the 9 weeks of unchecked usage. It was not until the utility bill arrived in the mail that the issue was realised and was promptly attended to.
How could this situation have been avoided? Setting up automated alarm messages for excess daily consumption or overnight water use could have alerted staff of the facility. An expert consultant could have been engaged to monitor water use, receive and manage alarms, and call the facility to notify them of the issue and advise how to identify and resolve the leak sooner.
On-going Action to Improve Efficiency
With on-going data analysis must come on-going action to improve efficiency. If an issue is discovered, you should know the risks associated with it and know what it is costing you in utility use. If you’re losing 1,400kL and $5,000 a month due to efficient water use, you should quickly work to solve it.
If you are responsible for these issues and don’t have the time to solve $5,000 per month problems then engage someone else to solve it. If you spend $5,000 on a solution, the next month you get your full ROI, and every month thereafter you reap the benefits and cost savings. Every month you don’t solve it is $5,000 down the drain and further risk of property damage. Simple.
Measurement and Verification
The process of quantifying savings from efficiency improvement measures is commonly referred to as measurement and verification.
If you have implemented systems or equipment with the view to improve efficiency, use your smart metering data to verify the outcomes were achieved.
Consider data demonstrating an old gas boiler using around 2,500 MJ of gas per day at $0.03/MJ. The total use per year is $27,600. This boiler is 10 years old and is rated at 70% efficient.
A new boiler exists that is rated at 85% efficient. If the old boiler was replaced with this new boiler then an 18% reduction in gas use would be expected. This would equate to 164,250MJ and $4,968 per year in savings.
If the cost to remove the old boiler and install the new boiler is $10,000 and it achieves an 18% reduction in gas use, then the pay-back period would be just over 2 years.
Smart metering data can compare gas use during the time of the old boiler with gas use of the new boiler from the time it is installed. If you see an 18% drop in gas use, then your project is achieving its goal as originally planned. If gas use does not decrease by 18%, perhaps there is an operational issue to address, or, perhaps there is a fault with the new boiler.
Measurement and verification is essential for demonstrating the results of equipment upgrades and efficiency improvement initiatives.
All smart metering systems require maintenance to ensure on-going success. This may replacing batteries in data collection hardware, repairing damaged cabling, or reconfiguring radio link gateways after security upgrades on a central server.
Smart metering systems can be programmed to alert operators of faults or upcoming events such as battery decline. It is essential that these issues are addressed, ideally before they occur.
The best people to maintain smart metering systems are typically the original suppliers, smart metering system integrators, or smart metering consultants who operate systems and deliver projects. These people will have the specialised knowledge and skills to ensure systems are maintained to the appropriate standard.
KPIs and Benchmarks
Key performance indicators and benchmarks are excellent ways to measure performance that can be applied to smart metering projects. Some examples of KPIs and benchmarks include:
· Maintaining resource use per staff member (or unit of production) to within 3% of the previous year.
· Reacting to all system alerts (e.g. water leak) within 48 hours.
· Individual sites within an organisation keeping resource use within 10% of the mean of all sites.
· Ensuring the ROI of efficiency projects is achieved in the originally planned timeframe.
· Improving or maintaining a ranking by an accreditation body e.g. NABERS star rating
Strive for Continuous Improvement and Refinement
In addition to KPIs and benchmarks, smart metering provides powerful tools to enable organisations who wish to strive for continuous improvement and refinement. Big results can be achieve by addressing only a small number of key issues but often, significant improvements can be made through many smaller incremental improvements. These improvements may be ‘second tier’ priorities but may still contain excellent cases for resource and monetary efficiency gains.
A great place to start is to look at areas of high frequency use items. Hand washing in a hospital may only account for a low percentage of total water use within the facility but still total as a significant volume. Installing lower flow tap fittings can result in significant savings and short term ROIs. Hand washing facilities may not be individually metered but 50 tap upgrades in one site should result in measurable performance improvements seen in the data collected from the main water meter to the site.
Minor operational changes can refine and optimise processes to use less resources without any expenses other than time. For example, if a sports field could use 5% less water and achieve the same quality of turf simply by irrigating 1 hour earlier in the morning when evaporation is lower, it is a simple task to change the scheduling on the irrigation controller to yield a significant result.
To ensure on-going success, one or more individuals or organisations should take responsibility for operating the smart metering system, analysing data, resource use performance, and taking action to improve efficiency and reduce risk.
A proven arrangement for allocation of accountability is:
Operating the smart metering system – Expert smart metering consultants & engineers
Analysing data and engaging with relevant parties – Expert smart metering consultants & engineers
Resource use performance – utility manager, sustainability manager, financial manager
Taking action in the field – facility manager, operational manager
This arrangement allocates responsibilities to the individuals most capable of managing them. Smart metering consultants will be far more efficient at operating and interpreting data of smart metering systems than other individuals. A sustainability manager will typically be more engaged in resource use performance than others. This allocation of responsibility can be strengthened through individual KPIs and service level agreements.
Publicly sharing resource use information or ranking in rating systems will also increase accountability and typically lead to better performance. A great example is in commercial and residential buildings where demonstrating higher sustainability performance can increase property value and attract more tenants.
Expert Advice and Consultation
Having the right people engaged in smart metering projects is essential. Engaging specialised consultants and engineers who analyse your smart metering data and transform it into rich insights into your utility use is the most effective way to guarantee results. Most organisations that implement smart metering systems do not have sufficient internal resources to undertake this analysis themselves. This is one of the key reasons that outsourcing this service is so popular.
Smart metering consultants who have mastered the hardware and software of the system can apply their skills to quickly summarise data as simple statements. These can be delivered as scheduled reports and for more urgent items, can be communicated by a phone call to the relevant people on site and offer advice and assistance in resolving issues.
By having an experienced, dedicated smart metering team to pro-actively monitor, analyse, action and provide tailored high level recommendations on pragmatic resource saving initiatives, the asset becomes fully utilised to achieve the full intended benefits of the system. Furthermore, there is no additional burden on internal staff.
Share your results!
Smart metering drives outcomes to improve sustainability, reduce labour, and save organisations unnecessary costs and risks. Communicating this success is important to raise awareness of the positive outcomes.
Organisations who successfully improve and reduce their resource use can tell their customers about the outcomes. This sends the message that sustainability and efficiency are highly valued and improves the perception of the brand or organisation.
Success can also be promoted internally in an organisation. For example, if you are a sustainability manager who has implemented a smart metering system and have achieved sustainability outcomes which have led to reduced utility bills, let management and your finance department or director know about it. This builds reputation for yourself and your projects!
A lack of planning for on-going analysis, action, and success is one of the most common reasons that smart metering projects don’t achieve their planned outcomes. For more information visit www.rian.tv.
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