Danny Holmes, principal consultant at Beyond ESG, looks at how smart technology can unlock the power of data and in doing so convert energy usage insights into substantial savings.

In today’s world, data has become the driving force behind many of the most important decisions we make – both at home and at work – from making an informed washing machine purchase through to the optimal location of a new store or warehouse.

This is because data helps us make decisions that are based on facts and evidence, rather than intuition or guesswork. It’s unsurprising therefore, that today, data is being used to solve some of the most important global problems; for instance, data collected through medical records, public health surveys, and medical imaging is now being used to detect and monitor the spread of disease and develop interventions to help prevent future pandemics.

Data from government and charitable organisations is identifying hotspots of severe hardship and building targeted strategies to help reduce poverty in those areas, whilst data from crop surveys, satellite imagery, and other sources is measuring food production and making predictions about food availability in different regions.

Data is also proving to be instrumental in the UK’s drive towards net zero. However, to achieve our goals, it is becoming increasingly clear that a more granular, collective is required - with every organisation playing its part and making tangible differences, which when added together affect positive change. For example, a case in point is the reduction of energy consumption.

Unlocking the power of data

Figure 1: Half hourly data

When it comes to reducing energy consumption, the key to unlocking the power of data is to access and analyse half hourly data (see figure 1). This enables organisations to get a better understanding of energy usage across the estate and identify areas where improvements can be made. The raw data comes from energy suppliers via smart meters. Each consumer will either be allocated or will allocate a Data Collector & Data Aggregators (DC/DA). They are responsible for providing half hourly data by collecting information from your smart meters. This is also essential to manage the capacity across the whole UK network as well as providing granular data by the site you own or occupy. This half-hourly data provides businesses and consumers with an accurate and detailed view of their energy consumption in real time. If you do not have smart meters across your estate, the first step is to do this by speaking to the people who manage your meters.

The next step is to analyse the half-hourly data to gain insight into energy consumption. By visualising the data, it is possible to quickly and easily see patterns and anomalies in energy usage and begin to identify areas where energy savings can be made. This could include understanding annual energy consumption and identifying times of peak demand, and adjusting usage accordingly, or identifying sites that are consuming more energy than expected. Visualisation helps to distinguish patterns that are otherwise hard to identify.

Figure 2: Hourly energy usage

Figure 2 shows hourly energy usage across an entire organisation. One could argue this is a good clean example. We can derive opening times of roughly 8am to 7pm, where during non-operating hours they have switched items off (making sure that when it’s off…it’s actually off!). We can see heat spots in certain times of the day, allowing us to make greater assessments of overuse and see what can be done to combat these spikes. When we own the data like this, alerts and triggers can be made, such as errors in heating function.

Subsequently, by converting the insights into tangible actions - such as optimising the ambient temperature across the entire estate at a granular level, significant energy savings can be made in the short term, which serves to both reduce spend and save the planet – win win!

Following this approach will also support creating clear and justifiable business cases to ensure that any investment people, process or technology is evidenced, tracked and measured.

In this way we have reduced consumption across several businesses across different sectors by over 30 per cent (in one case 65%). But the benefits of half-hourly data don’t stop there. By tracking energy usage over time, it is possible to develop longer term programmes of activity including identifying trends in energy usage and using this to plan future initiatives, set targets and track progress over time. But most excitingly it is also possible to use the data more strategically as an asset for business innovation and growth.

Clearly, what this shows is that with the right data, you can start to make energy savings quickly and efficiently. So why wait? Start turning your energy data into actionable insights that reduce your energy bill and positively impact the journey to Net Zero.

Beyond ESG use data, technology and industry expertise to define, manage and run energy saving programs. Where it makes sense, Beyond ESG transform buildings using smart technology to automate energy saving programs and enable new data driven opportunities.