Tech-savvy carbon saving

Facilities managers can cope with a volatile energy market by adopting climate technology solutions and DSR programmes, says Chantel Scheepers, Chief Executive Officer of OakTree Power

Spiralling energy prices pose a risk to FM budgets, and greater scrutiny of CO2 emissions seems inevitable with the political conversation focused on net zero commitments.

The solution for a facilities manager, then, is to master their building’s kilowatt’s usage and identify times when energy can be reduced without affecting performance.

What can FMs do?

The good news is that the FM community finally has the tools to achieve this, tackling rising energy costs and CO2 emissions all at the same time.

It can be done with the below:

  • Climate technology specifically designed to increase a facility’s energy efficiency. This is achieved through the adjustment of a property’s electricity load, which ultimately leads to the overall reduction of baseline energy consumption
  • Demand-side-response (DSR) programmes, which grid operators use to manage the network during peak demand or ease constraints
  1. Identify non-essential electricity

Although unknown to most FMs, not all electricity is equal or required constantly for performance. These non-essential kilowatts are not visible to the naked eye as they are consumed by appliances such as pumps, fans and air conditioning chillers, but they can be identified with the assistance of these tools. Here’s how.

Through the installation of a small device in any given property, electricity use, and more importantly, true requirements are immediately learned by the system. Once this discovery phase is complete and the device has identified the potential benefits the facility could obtain from the programme, a full report is handed over to the facility manager, explaining the level of benefits the property could obtain from the programme.

  1. Modulate energy usage

Because this device has artificial intelligence capabilities and contains an Internet of Things (IoT) controller, non-essential electricity consumption can be automatically turned up and down in different areas across the property for short periods of time. The modulation is made according to a pre-agreed strategy and set point with the facility, and assets remain under the control of the FM.

Moreover, there are no limitations on the integration of this system with buildings – old or new. Some building management softwares (BMS) can be antiquated and need a minor upgrade to adopt the scheme, but this can be easily resolved via a DSR partner.

Speaking in local terms, the scheme enables an average commercial building in London, to reduce otherwise inaccessible carbon emissions by over 4,450kg across its 205,000 square feet building in the first month of having our devices installed. 

Pinsent Masons, for instance, recently partnered with us to carry out this process and reduce its CO2 emissions earlier this year. The first step was analysing the multinational law firm’s energy data and assets, which was then followed by the creation of a bespoke strategy for the company. To make it more seamless, the scheme has been designed to operate through the client’s own existing energy suppliers, utilising its current infrastructure to generate a predictable annual recurring revenue stream.

Ultimately, this means that energy cost savings in Pinsent Masons London headquarters would be around £30,000 for the first 12 months of operation. In electrical terms, some properties can save up to £50k per 180kW.

  1. Contribute to a more sustainable network

With climate technology and DSR, FMs can go above and beyond with their contribution.

Because we partner with grid operators, the adjusted electricity load is used to help balance electricity networks during times of stress, when supply and demand are at odds. Moreover, this regular contribution to make up for energy shortfalls entails financial compensation.

Remuneration varies on the adjustable electricity load available. For example, if the client has any green generation or sits on a constraint network, the scheme would typically generate between £28k to £100k for a commercial building – saving and revenues combined.

  1. Adopt technology and getting started

The scheme requires a partner to participate, as properties would need to build a platform and meet a minimum contribution threshold that can be unreachable for one property alone.

The important thing is that all buildings become aware that demand-side-response schemes and artificial intelligence, coupled with unique programmes such as ours, have evolved from promising technologies to actual tools that can provide FMs with tangible benefits.

The real investment required from FMs would be time, with around five hours spent pre-project and one hour post installation. In addition, there is no upfront capital investment. If you have an in-house or group BMS contractor, then the installation period can be much quicker.

Cutting expenses has always been important for those managing commercial properties – even at the best of times. However, as we head into difficult economic times, it’s become crucial to be frugal with resources.

To get through this period of time and simultaneously reduce CO2 emissions, FMs must start adopting technology to address their building’s non-essential consumption. Not only will they reduce costs and emissions, but they will also get financially rewarded for doing so.