Energy Trackers Article -Defense Communities Magazine

Energy Trackers-Defense Communities Article - September, 2009

By keeping close watch on electricity consumption, submeters in military buildings and homes help slash usage and costs.

According to Defense Department data, the DOD's approximately 620,000 buildings on 400 installations around the country consume more than $2.5B worth of energy annually. As the nation's single largest energy consumer, the DOD represents 78 percent of all federal-sector energy use and is a significant consumer in many areas of the country. Because of this, the government is keenly aware of the need to not only conserve energy, but to invest in reduction measures that make good business sense and increase the readiness of its military installations.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 call on all federal facilities to reduce energy intensity by 3 percent annually through 2015 or 30 percent by 2015. Additionally, DOD Instruction 4170.11 outlines several electrical load reduction strategies, including energy management control systems (EMCS), submetering, duty-cycling HVAC systems in military family housing during power emergencies, and other measures.

With the writing clearly on the wall, submetering manufacturers have responded to the need for more sophisticated energy profiling by developing advanced metering products that far exceed the capability of the standard utility meter at the main electric service entrance. Used in conjunction with automatic meter reading (AMR) software, submetering systems can provide accurate and timely snapshots of energy use-from a single circuit or device all the way up to an entire building and beyond. Essential to support energy management initiatives, submeter-based AMR systems can now combine all of a facility's utility service data - electric, gas, water, steam, and others-into a single entity to show how, when and where the facility is using energy, as the first step toward managing and reducing it.

Here are some real-world examples of how energy metering is helping curb energy use and expenditures.

Quick installation of the weather-proof meter blends well with the housing exterior.

Proof In The Data

Accurate energy metering was a major objective at Los Angeles Air Force Base, where a single master utility meter recorded energy usage for the entire base.

"We knew we were using alot of energy and we were trying to determine where it was being used and at what time of day. But we really had no idea which buildings were using more or less energy." says Energy Manager Ed Wilson.

To plot the energy profile of the sprawling 150-acre expanse of government offices, R&D labs, military housing and other facilities, 36 submeters were installed at the service entrances of 14 main buildings. The payoff came surprisingly fast. Armed with energy load data and performance trends in over 100,000 square feet of facility space, Wilson was able to isolate specific areas for conservation measures and cost containment.

"Submeters are a great diagnostic tool for demonstrating energy savings," says Wilson. "People walk out of buildings at night and leave the lights and air conditioners on and doors open. When you have a submetering system, you can see what a substantial amount of energy is wasted that way." he adds, 'Then you can talk to maintenance and other staff and show them how much more it costs because we didn't do all we could to save energy. Running the AC at night in buildings of this size when they're unoccupied is a tremendous wasted cost, and with submeters you can see this."

Less than three years after LA AFB's submetering system went in, energy consumption dropped more than 27 percent from its previous baseline. Likewise, utility costs decreased some 23 percent during a period when electricity rates actually increased by 4.5 percent. Wilson's leadership in tackling energy and cost savings at LA AFB won him the Air Force Material Command's prestigious Energy Award that year.

Overall, the base is now saving more than $1 million annually on its utilities as a result of the visibility that submeters give the process of profiling energy use for conservation and cost management.

Privatized Resources

Submeters can also add value to the rapidly privatizing military housing market. At Marine Base Camp Pendleton, California, for example, tenant electricity was typically umetered in older on-base homes where such costs were previously absorbed by the Utility Division's operating budget. however, rising utility costs, housing privatization requirements, and the need to account for al on-base energy use drove the decision to retrofit electric metering into 605 single-family detached houses and duplex units, thereby allowing property managers to track electric usage against tenants' baseline utility allowances.

Hondo Electric's Steve Shoop, president of the installing electrical contracting firm, recalls the scope of the challenge, stating that the submeters "provided a simple solution to a complex problem." The service entrance to each housing unit was routed directly to a load center inside the house."

"This made measuring energy usage a major challenge that conventionally would have required installing a new service entrance to the outside of each home, with a meter/main and running a sub-feed through the house to the existing load center. As a result, there would have been considerable drywall and stucco damage," Shoop explains.

Next Steps

Master utility meters provide a broad indication of consumption and demand, but true load profiling requires specific measurements taken at specified intervals to isolate the causes of load peaks-as a first step to eliminating them or moving them to off-peak hours when rates are lower. Submeters provide the raw material to manage energy, but data collection and is only the beginning. until the raw data is imported into software and manipulated for cost allocation, billing, load shedding, rate negotiations, and a host of other uses, it has little practical value.

To meet the challenge, submetering hardware and software systems are commercially available from a host of suppliers to acquire, analyze and convert even the most sophisticated energy data into information for common use. it is important to realize that submeters themselves do not save energy. They do, however, provide the visibility needed to effectively manage your facilities' energy envelope to cut costs, use precious energy resources more efficiently and improve the bottom line, whether that facility is an entire military base, a local family housing unit, or almost anything in between.

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