Metering for NET ZERO – a new approach is needed
Like many existing energy management technologies and techniques, sub-metering is not new or particularly cutting edge. Good quality metering and metering systems have been available for decades. Yet still, there is a frustrating number of large organisations not reaping the benefits that metering data can provide and smaller companies simply not utilising their metering data at all.
Repeated attempts by the government to stimulate energy management, from a metering perspective, have only served to increase the number of meters fitted and not to drive ‘energy saving actions’ from the data they provide.
There are many reasons why metering data is under-utilised, these range from poorly specified systems to systems designed to a price without due consideration to how the data must be used.
It’s a bad assumption to think metering is ‘simple’ or ‘fit and forget’.
Will NET ZERO make any difference to the adoption of metering and the use of metering data?
It’s inconceivable to think that data for energy and carbon consumption will not need to be collected and used for the whole NET ZERO journey. Metering data is just a small part of the full data set needed, but it is a critical one.
Metering is a key requirement for tracking, quantifying and identification of energy and carbon reduction and is essential for all organisations embarking on a plan to NET ZERO.
Realising that the data is needed also requires acknowledgement that metering data must be well managed and maintained.
Why is NET ZERO different from any other energy initiative?
The implications are obvious, climate change is not a government compliance issue or a certificate to hang in reception. The implication is potentially catastrophic and regardless of your feelings around this, world governments (most of them) will be driving policies to address climate change.
These will come in many forms but carbon management from energy reduction will clearly be one of them. The task is not a simple one and the required energy reduction across the built environment is predicted to be between 30% and 60% (depending on the methodology used) to meet the UK target of NET Neutral by 2050.
This will not be easy and metering data will have its role to play.
The following diagram is a typical waterfall graph showing emissions and the abatement opportunities to reach NET ZERO. In all cases data (metering data and other data) will be required for accurate reporting and progress tracking.
It is time that energy managers, sustainability managers and specifiers accept and embrace the need for metering data. Metering and metering data needs to be understood and used. Whether that is in house capability or by using expert 3rd party providers.
Why does monitoring for NET ZERO change the approach for sub metering?
Anyone considering metering for a NET ZERO plan must take a very different view about metering, systems and analysis.
Metering needs to be considered as a long-term foundation of the NET ZERO plan, and therefore, its importance is escalated.
It won’t be acceptable to assume meters can be easily fitted and will provide an everlasting river of good quality data.
Organisations must recognise this and consider a number of key issues that may have been ignored previously:
- It’s all about the data – and the data must be reliable and useable for the next 15-25 years
- Metering and systems, therefore, need to be operated for the full 15–25-year duration, if the data is to be complete, accurate and up to date. To allow this to happen, the metering technology must be designed to read existing meters from any manufacturer and use standard protocols for reading future meter types.
- Future-proofing the data – this relates to the accessibility of the data, the system must be capable of working today but also have data sharing capabilities to work tomorrow. Data should be easily shareable, one or many organisations may need to use the data – whether this is energy consultants, in-house, analysts, specific project teams etc. Good quality data MUST be available, useable, and portable
This sounds fairly easy…. Not so!
Based on current behaviours, adoption, and operation of metering systems, it’s still the case that organisations are still fitting proprietary systems and locking themselves into a technology that may not last 25 years. Locking data into proprietary systems is restrictive and over the medium to long term, likely to result in both sub-standard data and higher costs. Additionally, many systems claiming to be metering systems do not allow full portability of data.
With this in mind, metering systems now need to be considered quite differently from the past.
A metering system comprises of 3 major components:
- The meters (typically electricity, water, gas and heat)
A new system MUST be agnostic to the existing meters available, but also agnostic to new metering available over the coming years. Currently the key is to support the two main metering protocols, MODBUS and MBUS. Proprietary equipment at this level should be avoided and new systems should utilise as much of the existing meters as possible (replacing meters unnecessarily is both commercially questionable and adds to the whole issue of waste and recycling).
- The data collection system
Fundamentally, the data collection system is just a conduit to read and store the data and to pass it to another system for analysis. Data collection will need to perform a lot of operational functions (reading/storing/data checking etc) but most importantly the data collection system should be agnostic to the meters it is reading and similarly agnostic to the data analytics platform it is feeding.
Data must be portable so that data can be shared with one or many systems and to allow new data recipients to receive the data in the future – this should be achievable without significant cost or effort.
- Data analytics
There are many analytic options available and there will be even more choices in the future. It is critical that any platform can easily receive data from various sources and formats (most already do). It is very likely that the analytics tools you have today may be replaced 3 or 4 times over the journey to NET ZERO as will the number of specialists, consultants and analysts. Data portability ensures the user has the flexibility to choose whoever and whatever analysis tools are right at the time.
Energy and sustainability professionals need to realise they need good quality data for many years, in a robust and portable way to allow them and their predecessors to continue tracking and reducing energy and carbon.
Elcomponent wholly endorses the above approach and has systems and services that provide our customers with full flexibility of metering, data, and analytics platform. Elcomponent can provide a full turn-key metering solution, however, we still maintain full flexibility for meter types and data analytics, now and in the future.
Elcomponent’s long-term goal is to partner with our customers for the whole NET ZERO journey and ensure the maximum value from their metering investment is realised.