Energy Data Insights: The Missing “Smart Step” to Better Building Performance

Energy Efficiency

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07 November 2017

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Jürgen Ritzek

Following our last article on "Artificial Intelligence in Energy Management Software", we got many responses from vendors and users alike. Over the next couple of weeks and month we will follow them all up and present here what we do believe are relevant and smart new solutions.

As EEIP we are having a particular focus on solutions not only delivering a higher return but are adressing (and solving) a specific barrier in the market.

Dexma showed us a new solution based on the insight of the "2 steps to energy efficiency". Basically it means that you need to equip someone within a company with some arguments to kick-off an energy audit. And arguments here means real savings potential. Plus, there is also a link to artificial intelligence as the new solution also uses pattern recognition algorithms to automatically recommend different technical solutions.

How the new AI platform works: check during live walkthrough webinar (recording)

On Thursday, 9th of November, Dexma Product Director Daniel Utges showed the solution during a webinar including a live walkthrough. You can register here - or after the 9th November use this link to view the recording.

The solution is mainly targeted for buildings energy performance, so let´s start with a brief  background

Barriers to Buildings Performance

A large and necessary step in achieving the Paris Agreement requires a transition to a highly efficient building stock in terms of real energy performance. This is perhaps nowhere more true than in Europe, where it is often stated that “all buildings built before 1990 are inefficient” and that up to 75% need renovating in order to reach a higher energy efficiency standard.  

In order to decarbonise EU building stock by 2050, a vision laid out in the Clean Energy for All Europeans communication (2016), the majority of buildings must be highly energy efficient, meaning they should comply with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) label A.

Unfortunately, this might prove more difficult than expected. New research from the BPIE shows that although building performance is constantly improving in the EU, only after 2010 was the average building was built to an efficient standard (0.49 W/m2 K for the building envelope) in the European Union. That means only 3% of building stock in the EU does actually qualifies for the A-label, so 97% (not 75% as typically stated) should therefore be upgraded.  

Two Steps to Energy Efficiency: A Double Bind?  

“Retrofitting is expensive, and what we find is that many businesses cannot even get past the first stage of obtaining internal buy-in to make the initial investment in an energy audit, never mind actually getting to the second stage of installing the more efficient equipment or retrofit that will help them reach EPC level A,” explains Daniel Utges, Product Director at DEXMA, an energy analytics firm based in Barcelona.  

After conducting a survey of nearly 300 energy professionals last year (report download is free but requires registration), DEXMA found that most of them struggle equally with understanding which sites to focus on first, and obtaining the budget to install the hardware required to save energy. “Those pain points were like alarm bells for us from a product development perspective,” remarks Daniel. He and his team understood that they needed to build something that would help users identify savings opportunities quickly and easily, removing the friction or barriers that typically puts the brakes on most energy efficiency projects.  

"In addition to a retracted starting line, a serious lack of data granularity prevents us from being able to pinpoint exactly which buildings should be retrofitted and when, especially when a portfolio of multiple buildings is involved", says Daniel. For this reason, it was important for DEXMA to find a way to leverage their database of more than 50,000 buildings monitored in real-time - that means 30 million daily readings that can be used to deliver historical context and the deep granularity that is typically missing from building energy data.  

Yet another barrier appears when considering how SMEs are often left out of well-intentioned government initiatives to promote energy efficiency. “In talking to our partners and their clients, we also noticed that subsidies and support programs tend to be aimed at very large energy consumers, such as manufacturing facilities or energy producers, or on the other end of the spectrum, towards residential energy-saving initiatives,” remarks Daniel. The UK’s Clean Growth Strategy offers a telling example, with the only mention of SMEs appearing in a commitment to explore “how we can improve the provision of information and advice” to encourage their uptake of energy efficiency technologies.”  

Fortunately, new data-driven tools are becoming available to address this set of building energy performance challenges and needs.  

“SMEs are really the missing middle when it comes to energy efficiency,” says Daniel. “We quickly realised there is a real need, especially for businesses with high energy savings potential but without the resources to outsource an ESCO to find and leverage them. That’s why we designed a platform for businesses who want to save energy through efficiency, but don’t necessarily have the time, resources or expertise to start.”  

EnergyGrader: A Smarter Step to Accelerated Building Energy Performance  

Using energy bill data as its main input, EnergyGrader is a new platform that helps building operators, owners, facility managers, and even business managers with little to no background in energy efficiency to pinpoint real energy savings opportunities with unprecedented ease and speed. Users can compare personalised energy savings recommendations, according to payback period and ROI, in order to catalyse the process of finding a specific solution that fits their needs and budget.

Even though business managers might be able to visualise their usage on their energy bill, they often don’t take action because they don’t understand the effects of various actions might have on their budget, or perceive energy efficiency interventions as too complex or disruptive. EnergyGrader takes the friction out of energy-efficiency decisions by linking them to real consumption data, and putting them in context for each and every user.  

The availability of customised recommendations based on real energy spend data can also provide the necessary justification and impetus to encourage businesses to actually implement energy efficiency projects. “For owners with larger building portfolios, the opportunity to scale projects is huge and much more cost effective,” says Daniel.  

The AI platform powered by pattern recognition algorithms can recommend several different solutions automatically, including:

  • which retrofit technology works best for your project and budget
  • insights into energy efficiency project CAPEX or OPEX
  • when to expect savings
  • which buildings or sites offer the highest savings potential
  • payback periods and other specific, CFO-friendly metrics  

"EnergyGrader’s recommendation library will continue to expand and provide increasingly precise recommendations over time, as it learns from users’ energy spending behaviour and building profiles. The idea is to grow the platform’s recommendation capabilities in terms of accuracy and availability. It is really exciting to be at the forefront of introducing artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to the building sector, where it can have a significant impact", says Daniel.  

On Thursday, 9 November 2017, DEXMA Product Director Daniel Utges will be hosting a free webinar on how to scale energy efficiency with AI. Following the 9th of November you can use the registration link (below) to view the recording.

This free online training session is open to all and will include a live walkthrough of the new EnergyGrader platform. Registration is free, but spots are limited – you can book your place here: http://dex.ma/2z2OexU. Following the 9th of November, you can use this link to vewi the recording.
In addition, the new platform can also be tested 30 days for free.

For comments or to direct us to further energy management software solutions using AI applications, please contact me under juergen.ritzek@ee-ip.org.
For any question about the EnergyGrader platform, please just contact Nicole Harper, our contact at Dexma.

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About the Author

Juergen Ritzek is co-founder and Business Director of EEIP