Todays Facility Managers Leverage Submeters for LEED and Other Green Building Programs

Today's Facility Managers Leverage Submeters for LEED & Other Green Building Programs

emon submeters at bill gates home

Facility operators are discovering the value of submeters for accurate metering of electrical usage and demand for tenant cost allocation and billing, energy management, load shedding and verifying compliance with LEED, Green Globes, Energy Star and other private and public-sector energy initiatives.

The various commercial and public-sector energy policies provide fertile ground for submeters as energy profilers and program verification tools. This white paper briefly overviews a few of these initiatives with an eye to how submeters can help to implement them.

In response to rising energy costs and tightening budgets, the last few years have seen a raft of new public and private sector energy policy initiatives designed to micro-manage existing resources, reduce greenhouse gases and encourage, whenever possible, the move toward renewable, non-fossil fuel energy sources. Although similarities exist in many of these programs, the common thread in all of them is the clear need for advanced submetering hardware and automatic meter reading (AMR) software solutions to cost-effectively benchmark, measure and verify compliance with whatever program guidelines the facility is pursuing.

First, a quick look at submeters and what they do

The level of profiling needed by high-volume energy consumers is simply unobtainable using the standard utility meter found at the main electrical service. That's why more facilities than ever are using submeters as first-level data-gathering tools to literally save thousands of dollars in reduced energy costs. First introduced in the early 1980's, submeters are metering devices with monitoring capability that are installed on the facility side of the master meter to provide any or all of the following:

  • Usage analysis and peak demand identification
  • Time-of-use metering of electricity, gas, water, steam, BTUs and other energy sources
  • Cost allocation for tenant billing
  • Measurement, verification and benchmarking for energy initiatives, including LEED Energy & Atmosphere (EA) and Water Efficiency (WE) credits
  • Load Comparisons
  • Threshold alarming and notification
  • Multi-site load aggregation and real-time historical monitoring of energy consumption patterns for negotiating lower energy rates, and more
Submeter Comparison

Of the three main submeter types show in the chart,, the first two-feed-through and current transformer (CT)-based-are socket-type meters. CT-style socket meters are used with loads of 400A and above. In commercial applications, they may be specified but will take up a lot of space in the electrical room due to the need for CT cabinets and the meter bases. The extra space requirement cuts into the available rental space, which is undesirable in the commercial marketplace. Another major disadvantage in many jurisdictions-socket meters are not UL listed. The third type is the electronic submeter, a non-socket device that provides clear advantages over the previous two.

Since their introduction to the market, submeters have grown dramatically in functionality and usefulness, providing great value to facility owners and operators as "front-line" energy data gathering tools in an era of rising utility costs and tightening budgets. Today submeters are coming out of the electrical room onto the facility floor and into building lobbies to give users, tenants, employees and other visibility on actual energy usage and its impact in terms of CO2 emissions, kWh dollars and other parameters easily understood by laymen. Submeters not only improve the facility bottom line, but facilitate compliance with major energy initiatives-several of which are briefly described in the following sections-while also encouraging every level of the enterprise to become a stakeholder in the energy management and conservation process.

Key Role of Submeters in the Facility "Greening" Process

Leading submeter manufacturers like E-Mon of Langhorne, PA, have responded to the "green challenge" by developing next-generation hardware and software tools that specifically address the measurement & verification (M & V) needs of LEED v3, EPAct 2005, EISA 2007 and other green building energy initiatives dominating the sustainable facility market. Certified to ANSI C12.1 & C12.16 national accuracy standards, advanced submeters offer a number of important functions for new construction or retrofit applications, including:

  • Scrolling LCD display of kilowatt-hour (kWh) usage
  • kWh in dollars
  • Current demand load (kW)
  • Cost per hour, based on current load
  • Estimated CO2 emissions in pounds, based on DOE standards
  • Estimated hourly CO2 emissions based on current load
  • Net metering, including utility-delivered vs. user-received power and net usage
  • Compatibility with BACnet, ModBus, Ethernet, LonWorks, RF and other popular building automation system communications
  • Compatibility with pulse-output utility meters, including water, gas, BTU, steam, etc.
  • Optionally integrate with automatic meter reading (AMR) system for billing and analysis
  • Optionally view energy usage and carbon footprint data via easy-to-understand dashboards accessible from any standard web browser.
Panel picture Whether designed in or retrofitted, submeters are installed on the "building side" of the main utility meter to measure energy usage from the enterprise level all the way down to a single device or circuit panel, as shown here. Sold through distribution, electric submeters are easily integrated with water, gas and other pulse-enabled utility meters, and energy intelligence software, to provide a total facility energy snapshot.


Since its establishment in 1993, the U.S. Green Building Council's "Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design" (LEED) building-performance rating system has moved into virtually every U.S. commercial and industrial building sector. In the process, LEED has gone far toward generating industry-wide awareness and acceptance of green design, operations and maintenance through deployment of guidelines to help facility professionals navigate through complex sustainability projects.

Released in April 2009, LEED version 3 also called LEED 2009, poses increasingly stringent requirements compared to previous revisions, including a 10 percent reduction versus ASHRAE 90.1-2007 for new buildings, as well as an Energy Star performance rating of at least 69 for existing facilities. Alternative energy use, metering, commissioning and other energy-efficient strategies that reduce carbon-dioxide emissions are weighted more heavily in LEED 2009. For example, in the new version of LEED for Existing Buildings-Operations and Maintenance (EBOM), facilities can obtain up to six points for using renewable energy, as opposed to only four under the previous LEED version.

Another key difference in terms of credit requirements in LEED for New Construction (NC) is a 20 percent reduction of in-building water use that is now a prerequisite, not an optional credit as before. Additionally, the USGBC is now asking project teams to upload building energy and water data for a minimum of five years, via a free online tool, to create a database for analyzing sustainable versus traditional building water and energy use over time.

LEED Submetering Chart

An important LEED v3 change occurred in the rating system itself. Credits have been realigned along a 100-point scale that allows six more points for innovation and four for the newly added regional priority subcategory. In LEED v3, certification levels are based on the following points structure: 40-49, Certified; 50-59, Silver; 60-79, Gold; 80 or above, Platinum.

LEED v3's energy section offers some of the building assessment system's most targeted guidelines for decreasing energy consumption and increasing alternative energy use. LEED v3 also provides guidance on commissioning, so that facility executives can be sure their systems are functioning at peak efficiency. The backbone of the measurement and verification (M&V) process required for LEED certification at every level is the electric submeter. As the above chart shows, the primary building performance category in which submetering plays a key role is the Energy & Atmosphere (EA) subset that runs all of the major assessment categories, including Commercial Interiors (CI), Existing Buildings-Operations & Maintenance (EBOM), New Construction (NC) and others.

Green Globes

The Green Building Initiative's (GBI) Green Globes building rating system claims to be a simpler, more user-friendly process than LEED for assessing and integrating green design principles for buildings. Submitted in 2006 to an independent review committee of more than 100 representatives from various green building interest groups, Green Globes is currently on final approach for acceptance as the first ANSI standard (GBI 01-200XP) for commercial green buildings. GBI also works with local chapters of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) to develop green building programs in the community, and is engaged in educating consumers on the value of green building techniques. As with other programs, submeters will provide the basic energy monitoring tool for measurement and verification in compliance with policy guidelines.

Submeterin installation

Energy Star

Introduced in 1992, the joint EPA/DOE Energy Star program has expanded beyond office equipment products to major appliances, lighting, new homes and even commercial and industrial buildings. The Energy Star building performance rating system has already been implemented in more than 75,000 buildings, and provides fertile ground for submetering-based performance assessment through:

  • Data collection and management
  • Establishing performance baselines
  • Auditing and analyzing energy patterns and trends
  • Normalizing energy data for fair and accurate comparisons

The Impact of EPAct & EISA

Designed to solve growing energy problems by providing tax incentives and loan guarantees for various types of energy production, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) was passed by congress in July 2005 and signed into law by President George W. Bush a month later. Section 103(e) "Energy Use Measurement and Accountability" amended Section 543 of the National Energy Conservation Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 8253) to read, as regards "Metering of Energy Use":

"By October 1, 2012, in accordance with guidelines established by the Secretary under paragraph (2), all Federal buildings shall, for the purpose of efficient use of energy and reduction in the cost of electricity used in such buildings, be metered. Each agency shall use, to the maximum extent practicable, advanced meters or advanced metering devices that provide data at least daily and that measure at leash hourly consumption of electricity in the Federal buildings of the agency. Such data shall be incorporated into existing Federal energy tracking systems and made available to Federal facility managers."

Other EPAct sections relative to submetering are 1251 (net metering) and 1331 (support for $1.80 per square foot tax deduction for energy-efficient buildings). Note: Originally slated to expire at the end of 2008, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (H.R.1424) extended the "Energy-Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction" to December 31, 2013, per Section 303.

Signed into law two years after EPAct, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) is an omnibus energy policy designed to strengthen existing energy reduction goals and energy management requirements not only in government buildings, but throughout business and industry, as outlined in Title IV, Subtitles A-G, Section 543 states that energy consumption per gross square foot of Federal buildings shall be reduced-compared to 2004 levels-from two percent in fiscal 2006 to 30 percent in FY2015. Section 434(b) further states that by not later than October 1, 2016 each agency shall provide for equivalent metering of natural gas and steam, in accordance with established guidelines. This is easily and inexpensively accomplished, since advanced metering products from E-Mon and others provide an easy, economical way to interface existing electric, water, gas, steam and other pulse-enabled utility meters into the AMR system-including inexpensively upgrading them to wireless capability.

Executive Orders 13423 (Bush) and 13514 (Obama)

Signed into law by President Bush on January 24, 2007, Executive Order 13423 (Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management) claims 50 percent more stringent energy-efficiency guidelines than EPAct 2005. Section VI. Energy & Water Management mandates the metering of potable water, electricity and thermal energy. Collected data will be used by Federal facility managers to negotiate better energy service contracts. Opportunities for E-Mon D-Mon Green Class submeters, aggregators and other E-Mon products under E.O. 13423 include:

  • Energy efficiency and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Sustainable design/high-performance buildings

Signed into law on October 5, 2009 by President Obama, Executive Order 13514 (Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance) does not replace E.O 13423 but rather builds on it. However, in application, there appears to be very little practical difference between the two E.O. in terms of the areas impacted by metering, since both Orders cite EPAct 2005 and EISA 2007 as controlling authorities. These areas include: Building Energy, Renewable Energy, Consumption/Generation and High-Performance Sustainable Buildings. The common thread in all of these policy guidelines, however, is a clear need for advanced submetering hardware and AMR software solutions to cost-effectively provide:

  • Whole building metering
  • Energy management & Analysis
  • Tenant/Dept. cost allocation
  • Benchmarking
  • Measurement & Verification of program compliance

Demand Response and other Energy Initiatives

As the name implies, Demand Response programs allow utilities and consumers to manage electrical demand, measured in kilowatts or kW, in response to supply conditions. For example, by reducing consumption (kilowatt-hours or kWh) in times of high prices or limited supply, pressure is relieved from the grid which keeps costs down. Many utilities provide incentives for users to voluntarily curtail their demand by monitoring their electrical usage and shaving peaks to provide a flatter energy profile. Submeters are effective in Demand Response scenarios, due to their ability to track kW and kWh for the purpose of shedding load, for verifying compliance with program regulations and other functions. Time-of-use (TOU) or real-time metering is especially useful where tariffs are tiered according to on-peak, mid-peak and off-peak schedules.

Known as the "Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings," ASHRAE Standard 189P claims to be the first green building standard in the U.S. developed for inclusion in building codes. As a joint proposal of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and others, Standard 189P will provide code-enforceable minimum guidelines for green building practices for new commercial buildings and major renovation projects. Energy efficiency goals will include a minimum 30% reduction in energy cost (and CO2 equivalent) compared to Standard 90.1-2007. On January 1, 2011, an almost identical measure-the California High-Performance Green Standard Building Code-became law in that state. According to ASHRAE, Standard 189P will become the benchmark for all sustainable green buildings in the U.S. and will significantly impact the design and construction industry for years to come. Submeters will play a key role in Standard 189P's requirement for measurement devices with remote communication capability to collect energy consumption data. Additionally, building wiring will be required to isolate HVAC, lighting and other loads in order to allow energy monitoring and verification of projected energy savings.

The EPA's Green Power Partnership is a renewable energy awareness program that is designed to incentivize high volume power users to offload part of their energy needs to renewable (non-fossil fuel) sources. The agency provides its customers with expertise in technology issues, identification of green products and services and promotional awareness. Participation levels are based on the amount of green power purchased from renewable energy sources constructed after Jan. 1, 1997, as a percentage of the using organization's total annual base load in kWh. For example, a facility that uses 1-10 million kWh per year would have to buy six percent of its energy from green power sources to qualify as a "Green Power Partner." To qualify as a Green Power Leadership Club member, 60 percent of the facility's annual power buy would have to come from renewable sources. Whatever renewable energy source is used, the electrical load still has to be monitored and reported to verify compliance, an ideal application for submeters and AMR software.

The DOE's Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) launched Save Energy Now to improve industrial energy management through no-cost energy assessments in partnership with national supply chains, industrial associations, state and local agencies, utilities, etc. Energy assessments focus on process heating, steam pumps, fans, compressed air, HVAC and others. Save Energy Now also offers a portfolio of resources, including training and education on best practices and tools, to help users become smarter on industrial energy conservation issues. Submetering opportunities in this environment include benchmarking equipment performance, diagnostics, tracking individual process to isolate electrical loads, and more.

Meter Dashboards Help Increase Energy Awareness

Internet-enabled energy monitoring and data presentment dashboards are gaining traction in the government facility environment for displaying kWh, kW, peak demand, power factor and other energy measurements in real time, and historically, while also displaying the facility's "carbon footprint." This allows facility occupants to monitor their building's carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions-while at the same time observing estimated energy conservation measures needed to compensate for the displayed levels.

The following screen captures illustrate the sheer depth of energy information provided by a single submeter, in this case an E-Mon D-Mon Class 3000 device. For the 800 Amp main distribution panel shown below, the first meter dashboard displays the various metered parameters; the second shows the carbon footprint of the metered 800A panel over time, even extrapolating the data to an estimation of equivalent automobile miles driven and the amount of reforestation needed to offset the panel's CO2 contribution!

Webmon energy dashboard Webmon CO2 dashboard

Bottom Line Considerations

Dramatic changes are afoot in the facility world, driven by the need to save more and more energy and cut operating costs even further. Building professionals will note in the bewildering array of energy programs now proliferating, obvious ways in which submeters and automatic meter reading (AMR) systems can help them measure, verify and report compliance with whatever requirements they may encounter. The old energy adage-"you can't manage what you don't measure"-is particularly true in today' energy-conscious automated facility environment. The good news is that submeters offer an accurate, cost-effective tool for doing exactly that-while providing true scalability and the flexibility to quickly adapt to evolving operational requirements.

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