K-12 School Spotlight: Portland Public Schools, Oregon
Making the Business Case for Investing in a Utility Data Management Solution
The Energy Specialist at Portland Public Schools (PPS) determined that implementing a third-party utility data management solution would reduce the staff time dedicated to utility bill management by 46 hours per month and save the school district approximately $3,000 per year. By quantifying the costs and benefits of the utility data management service, the Energy Specialist successfully made the case for the school district to invest in the third-party solution.
Goal: Improve the efficiency of the school district's energy data management process.
Barrier: Lack of information showing value proposition (i.e., costs and benefits) of data management to meeting organizational goals or mission.
Solution: Developed the value proposition for investing in a third-party utility data management solution by quantifying the costs and benefits to the school district.
Outcome: PPS contracted with a third-party energy and utility management company that provided comprehensive utility billing services, including utility bill aggregation and data entry, a data-tracking tool, and invoice analysis and processing services. The services reduced the staff time dedicated to utility bill management by 46 hours per month and saved the school district approximately $3,000 per year. In addition, the comprehensive utility billing services reduced the response time to usage anomalies resulting in avoided costs from wasted energy and allowed the Energy Specialist to better manage energy use and costs across PPS facilities.
PPS is the largest school district in the Pacific Northwest and was manually collecting, tracking, and paying utility bills for 1,100 electric, natural gas, and water meters across its 100 school facilities and 9 million square-foot portfolio. The process was a time-consuming and resource-intensive endeavor that significantly limited the time to manage and improve the performance of its facilities. It also left PPS with records of energy consumption data that were 3 months behind the current billing period and data gaps that prevented the Energy Specialist from visualizing the full energy profile of facilities under his purview. The manual nature of the process also created data inaccuracies.
The Energy Specialist projected that using a third-party vendor to assist PPS in its energy data collection and tracking efforts would significantly reduce staff time spent on energy data collection and utility bill processing, eliminate the backlog of energy data, increase the completeness of energy data for a "full energy profile" of each facility, and reduce the time lag between the period of energy consumption and the time energy data are available for review.
To make the business case for entering into a long-term contract with a third-party vendor, the Energy Specialist worked with the accounts payable department to determine the amount of staff time PPS was spending on data collection, tracking, and bill payment every month. This analysis found that approximately 46 hours a month of internal personnel time could be saved through the utilization of a third-party contract that included comprehensive utility bill data entry, a tracking tool, and invoice analysis and processing services. The new contract with the third-party vendor could also eliminate a utility database fee PPS was paying.
The analysis estimated that the savings in personnel time plus the savings from eliminating the utility database fee would be approximately equal to the cost of the third-party service; however, once implemented, the third-party service contract proved to be cheaper than expected, saving the school district more than $3,000 per year (see Table 1 below).
|PPS School District Line Items||Average Monthly Hours Saved||Equivalent Internal Annual Costs and Savings|
|School District Personnel Savings||46 hrs.||$21,222|
|Energy Specialist||20 hrs.||$10,468|
|Resource Conservation Manager||8 hrs.||$4,395|
|Finance Clerk I||18 hrs.||$6,359|
|Service Fee for Utility Database Savings||-||$1,975|
|Total Gross Savings||46 hrs.||$23,197|
|Cost of Utility Data Management Service||-||($20,000)|
|Total Net Savings||46 hrs.||$3,197|
Presenting this analysis to PPS leadership helped generate support for the solution. Not only was this a cost-saving proposition, but the additional energy management services provided by the third-party service providers tipped the scales in favor of pursuing the third-party approach. After receiving buy-in from leadership, PPS issued a request for information for comprehensive utility billing services, including utility bill aggregation and a data-tracking tool.
Ultimately, PPS selected ENGIE Impact (formerly Ecova) because it could easily integrate its comprehensive utility billing services, including utility bill aggregation and data entry, a data-tracking tool, and invoice analysis and processing services, with PPS's existing data software platform. ENGIE Impact's platform also provided a number of functionalities that could improve PPS's ability to manage and analyze utility bill invoices. The services reduced the staff time dedicated to utility bill management by 46 hours per month and saved the school district approximately $3,000 per year. In addition, ENGIE Impact's comprehensive utility billing services reduced the response time to usage anomalies resulting in avoided costs from wasted energy and allowed the Energy Specialist to better manage energy use and costs across PPS facilities.
Note: the information in this case study is based on primary research conducted in 2013-2014. Learn more about the guide's research and development.
To learn more about how to define the value proposition for an energy data management program, see Step 1.