A central energy database is vital to data-driven energy management. It provides greater visibility into the energy performance of individual assets across your organization's portfolio, allows you to identify assets with the greatest opportunity for improvement, and streamlines communication and decision-making with key stakeholders in your organization.
Compiling a comprehensive database requires significant time upfront, so begin compiling a list of data types and sources for your central energy database as early as possible. You do not need to tackle every data source and type right away. Instead, you may want to consider completing the process incrementally as your organization's capacity to manage and use this data increases; however, planning a robust database structure from the beginning is critical for success.
There are four phases to creating your central energy database:
- Locate and collect sources of relevant asset data and utility data
- Create a standard organizational structure for the database
- Reconcile collected asset and utility data and fill data gaps
- Maintain the integrity of the database.
The first step to creating a central energy database is to locate and collect the sources of relevant asset and utility data.
Public-sector organizations own and manage a diverse portfolio of energy- and water-using facilities and infrastructure. Each of these can represent a significant portion of the total utility consumption and expenditures.
Disaggregated data sets typically contain data for assets of interest. So, it is often necessary to access a number of resources. You should begin by identifying the types of available data, the units of measure used, and the frequency of data collection and updates.
|Internal Data Sources||Data Types|
Utility billing data:
Energy performance contracts:
|a) Property assessment databases are publicly available records maintained at the county or municipal level by the local government tax office.|
Once you identify the data sources and available data, start forming the central database structure and elements. To effectively account for energy and water consumption and to optimize energy management of assets, you will need the following four data and metric categories.
Category 1. Asset Types and Characteristics
For organizing public-sector data portfolios, there are five major asset types: facilities, outdoor lighting, water and sewer services, transportation, and other infrastructure.
|Facilities||Outdoor Lighting||Water and Sewer Services||Transportation||Other Infrastructure|
Assets generating energy—such as distributed renewable installations and combined heat and power installations—are outside the scope of this guide.
Tip: Tracking Energy Use in Drinking and Water Resource Recovery Facilities
Drinking and water resource recovery facilities may only account for a small percentage of the total building area, but water and wastewater treatment operating costs typically account for 30%-40% of annual municipal energy budgets. Due to their intensive energy use, improvements in these facilities can create significant energy and cost savings. For example, upgrade projects can reduce total facility energy consumptions by up to 50%. The efficiency of these facilities can be tracked using electricity consumption per million gallons water pumped (kWh/MG) and/or total energy consumption (e.g., electricity and natural gas) per million gallons water pumped (kBtu/MG).
For more detailed information on energy data management for water resource recovery facilities, see Energy Data Management Manual for the Wastewater Treatment Sector.
For additional resources on water and wastewater energy efficiency, see:
To further characterize your portfolio and assess the energy performance of assets, additional asset-level data is needed. (Table 3-3)
|Organization and Site-Specific Data||Facility- or Asset-Level Characteristicsa||Characteristics Required for ENERGY STAR® Benchmarkingb|
You can use the asset-level information to analyze energy by specific asset type or other characteristics of interest, providing greater and more granular visibility into factors associated with energy consumption.
You can also use it for matching utility meters with assets, benchmarking, normalizing energy usage for weather fluctuations, calculating energy use intensity (EUI), and other indicators of energy performance, all of which can be used to devise more sophisticated strategies for saving energy and costs.
Category 2. Commodity Types
Typically, billing cycles set by the vendor limit the frequency of assessment of the cost and consumption of common energy commodities used by the public sector. Knowing the commodity type, corresponding units of measure, and billing frequency allows you to analyze usage and monitor trends over time. You can then convert commodity usage to common units for reporting the total energy and water consumption of the portfolio. (Table 3-4)
|Commodity Types||Units of Measurement||Typical Billing Period|
|Electricity||kWh (consumption), kW (demand), kVA (power factor)||monthly|
|Natural Gas||therms, hundred cubic feet (CCF), thousand cubic feet (MCF)||monthly|
|Heating Oil||gallons||quarterly, annually|
|District Steam||lbs. (consumption), lbs./hr. (demand)||monthly|
|Chilled Water||ton-hours (consumption), ton (demand)||monthly|
|On-Site Renewable Electricity||kWh||monthly (or less)|
|Water||CCF, gallon||monthly, quarterly|
|Sewer||CCF, gallon||monthly, quarterly|
Category 3. Vendor Account Details
Public-sector entities often contract with many commodity vendors. A detailed accounting across these vendors, often from multiple utilities, that tracks consumption and cost or rate structure for each asset is important to prevent oversight. Sometimes, a vendor may incorrectly assign a rate structure to a meter, resulting in erroneous charges. For example, Boston, Massachusetts, recovered over $1.2 million in identified utility billing errors in the first year of a 3-year bill verification contract employed as part of a programmatic overhaul of its energy data management program. Read more.
Resources: Utility Rate Database
For more information on rate schedules, visit the Utility Rate Database, a free storehouse of rate structure information from utilities in the United States.
You can also use information on metered service addresses, rate structures, and commodity types to help you identify when meters do not match specific assets.
Resources: Understanding Your Utility Bill
Understanding your utility bill is an important first step in lowering your energy costs. This guide developed by Duke Energy for customers in Ohio provides simple and direct explanations of the components of a utility bill and how they are calculated.Learn More
Below are the key vendor account details to track in regulated and deregulated markets:
- Vendor name
- Account or customer service representative
- Commodity (service and/or fuel) type
- Service address (or service ID)
- Account numbers
- Meter numbers
- Rate schedules (tariff)
- Service start date
- Supplier (in deregulated markets)
- Contract start and end dates (in deregulated markets).
Category 4. Consumption and Cost Data
At a minimum, you should track consumption, demand charges, and total cost per meter for each billing cycle for the commodities that service your portfolio (Table 3-5). This primary consumption data allows you to detect unusually high consumption associated with peak power usage, such as poorly functioning or poorly scheduled building systems.
|Primary Consumption Dataa|
|All Commodity Types:|
Consumption (e.g., kWh, therms, gallons, and so on)
Consumption charge (dollars)
Total cost per meter per billing period (dollars)
Bill period start and end dates
Number of days in bill period
Demand charge (dollars)
|a) Many states allow for consumer choice when it comes to the supplier of electricity or natural gas. In these instances, consumption charges associated with a third-party supplier are separated from all other charges. When a transmission and distribution service provider is not authorized to bill on behalf of the third-party supplier, an additional bill is issued for the consumption and consumption charge.|
Tip: Tracking Street and Traffic Light Electricity Consumption
Depending on the ownership and metering infrastructure of street and traffic lights, monthly consumption for individual lamps may not be available from the vendor. Instead, vendors may charge a flat rate per light for lighting infrastructure, which can vary based on lamp and pole type. It may be possible to track this flat rate in lieu of monthly consumption. To learn more, check out: Better Buildings Outdoor Lighting Accelerator Toolkit and State and Local Solution Center—Outdoor Lighting.
In addition, vendors typically list certain types of energy charges on utility bills as separate line item charges (Table 3-6). These are frequently bundled with consumption and demand charges (common with natural gas vendors).
When you anticipate these bundled charges, you can more effectively account for the multiplier effect that fluctuations in consumption and demand have on total utility costs. You can also ensure your vendors do not include erroneous charges on the bill (e.g., a tax line item for a state or local government asset, which is tax-exempt). Reviewing these line items closely can reveal additional savings through identification of more appropriate rate structures.
|Secondary Consumption Dataa|
|All Commodity Types:|
Monthly service or customer charge (dollars)
Social or system benefits charge (per kWh, per therm)
Late fees (percentage of total)
Power factor (%) = kW/kVA
Power factor charge (adjusted demand charge, charge per kVAR used)
Demand ratchet charge
Distribution charge (per kWh)
Transmission charge (per kWh)
Fuel cost adjustment (per kWh)
|a) This is not a comprehensive list of possible charges.
b) Not all accounts have the charges listed in this table.
Next, you want to obtain full records from all relevant data sources. Collecting utility data and a complete set of asset characteristics can be challenging. It may require a variety of strategies for obtaining the required data from key staff in your organization and outside stakeholders. In addition, multiple data sources may contain redundant or inconsistent data, and some sources maintain more current data than others; therefore, it is important to identify and verify the most accurate data sources for populating the database.
You should also expect some data may be missing. Allow enough time to pull together a comprehensive list of asset characteristics. Missing data should not prevent you from pursuing the next phase in the process of creating the database.
Engage Key Staff to Develop the Database
When developing the central energy database, it is important that you engage the staff that will use and help maintain it. Key staff to engage include:
- Energy and/or sustainability manager
- Facility manager
- Energy data analyst
- Energy engineer
- Data administrator and/or information technology staff.
If your organization does not have staff assigned to all of these specific roles, consider engaging staff from finance, accounts payable, or public-works departments that may naturally assume these responsibilities. Additional personnel to consider engaging include:
- Maintenance staff
- Risk personnel
Finally, in some cases, it may be appropriate to use the assistance of an outside service provider to gather your data for the central database.
Develop a Value Statement
Database development requires collaboration among people in different departments. If you provide a clear explanation of the purpose behind the request for data, it facilitates easier access to records. Ahead of time, it is worthwhile to develop a statement of the goals and objectives for your energy-tracking program.
To further enhance cooperation and buy-in from other departments, you can determine the needs of the other departments when designing the database and incorporate those needs into the database's functionality. Then, you can tailor the value statement to communicate how the central energy database meets specific goals of a variety of departments.
Recognize Data Champions
Publicly recognizing your data champions for their valuable work is another way to keep key staff engaged.
Example: San Francisco Recognizes Its Energy Data Champions
San Francisco, California, profiles their energy data champions, known as climate liaisons, on the San Francisco Department of Environment website. The profile includes a short biography to recognize each individual for their contribution in helping the city reach its climate action goals.
Capture Asset Data through Project Approval Process
Utility and asset characteristics can be captured on a continuous basis using data on applications for approval or funding of capital improvement projects; provision of asset characteristics and utility data may be required as part of the application process. You can use this submitted information to complete the database or to verify existing data.
However, specifications may change between the application and final installation; therefore, you should verify the data following project completion.
Leverage High-Level Data
Lack of granular data for monthly usage or by fuel type—a common problem—limits the ability to link utility billing data to specific assets. When this occurs, you can use high-level data, such as annual reports, to track energy reduction goals. Cost data can serve as a proxy for consumption data, especially if known rates can be used to estimate consumption.
Commodity vendors can be a key source of data for the energy database. To obtain this information, contact your customer representative for each vendor. Ask for a list of all accounts with corresponding meter information held for your organization.
Request that your utility include all vendor and consumption data available for active accounts. In some cases, utilities may provide distribution maps or GPS data on metered locations and distribution lines, which is valuable during the meter-matching phase.
Tip: Utility Account Query
When requesting data from vendors, you should query the utility's list of accounts using possible aliases that the utility may have used to name your organization's accounts. It is often the case that accounts have inconsistent names and abbreviations. Searching the database using multiple aliases can result in a more complete list of accounts supplied from each vendor. Conversely, this process may return accounts from unrelated entities or businesses that share a common alias. For these reasons, you should work with vendors to make naming conventions consistent for all accounts.
When you determine a strategy for reducing energy use, it is important to understand how various asset types contribute to overall energy consumption. Local governments operate a variety of asset types, and their energy profiles can vary significantly. For example, water and wastewater treatment operating costs typically account for 30%-40% of annual municipal energy budgets.
A review of energy profiles for 20 local governments revealed that, in half of these, the energy consumption of street and traffic lighting and/or water resource recovery facilities was greater than or equal to that of their building portfolios.
Municipal Energy Consumption Profiles (Btu)
A scarcity of time and resources available for energy data tracking may limit the number of facilities your organization can routinely track. An energy baseline assessment helps prioritize tracking, using the relative contributions of various assets to the total energy consumption.
Assets to consider tracking on a frequent (at least monthly) basis include:
- Assets that represent significant energy use or energy savings potential
- Assets that are being added to your existing portfolio (e.g., new buildings or infrastructure)
- Assets within direct control of your organization.
Assets and commodities to track on a less frequent (annual) basis may include:
- Assets not within direct control of your organization (i.e., those managed by independent agencies)
- Leased space for which the entity makes utility payments
- Commodities lacking monthly consumption and cost data (e.g., heating oil).
A central and well-structured energy database can allow your organization to realize the full savings potential of your energy management strategy, and it can facilitate analysis and reporting across the entire portfolio. Centralization also provides the opportunity to reconcile differences in the way facilities organize their data.
As your organization's data picture becomes clearer, the way data is stored and organized across departments becomes more apparent. You can then design a database structure that is applicable across departments.
You can sort and analyze asset data based on a specific data field, such as asset type, date, commodity, or any other category of interest, irrespective of the department or funding source.
Tools: Standard Energy Efficiency Data (SEED) Platform
Before building a new central energy database for your organization, consider leveraging the DOE Standard Energy Efficiency Data (SEED) Platform. SEED is an open-source database for organizing, querying, and sharing building energy data. SEED helps automate the process of formatting, matching, cleaning, and validating data to identify errors. SEED functions like an access database, so you can set up your own version of SEED on your servers, on the cloud, or work with a third-party software provider to help you get started.
SEED Platform functionalities include:
- Data Import: Enables data imports from multiple sources such as EPA's Portfolio Manager, property tax records, and findings from energy audits
- Data Organization: Maps, matches, groups, and tracks records from multiple sources
- Data Validation and Analysis: Automates the process of validating and analyzing data to identify errors
- Data Sharing and Privacy: Functions like an access database so each user has its own "instance" which can be customized for access and sharing
- Data Export: Features an application programming interface (API) that allows selected data to be shared directly with other software tools or public-facing dashboards.
Creating a central database requires merging data from a variety of sources that may have data organized by different categories.
For example, one source may organize assets by agency or department (e.g., all assets managed by the Department of General Services), while another may group assets based on funding source (e.g., all assets managed by the general fund) or by primary activity (e.g., all office buildings or libraries).
When compiling the database, incorporate these different categories into the central database to serve as identifiers that can be used for analysis and reporting.
A standardized nomenclature will allow assets to be more easily searchable in the database. It also can simplify the meter-matching phase.
Definitions and naming standards often vary across facility records. For example, different naming conventions (e.g., Wilson Middle School versus Wilson Junior High) or street name abbreviations (e.g., Road versus Rd.) can create duplicates in the database. This complicates the process of matching meters with corresponding assets. You can use the Department of Energy's (DOE) Building Energy Data Exchange Specification (BEDES), a dictionary of terms, definitions, and formats for building energy data, and BEDES Manager to assist you in establishing a standard set of terms for your database and sharing that data with your staff and external stakeholders.
Once you establish a standardized naming convention, dissemination of the nomenclature to data holders will ensure the integrity of the database in future updates.
Tip: Use a Unique Identifier to Account for Assets and Meters
A unique identifier is critical for tracking individual assets across the organization. This is especially true when multiple assets are located on one lot, when individual assets share an address, or when assets are associated with multiple meter addresses. To simplify use of the database, develop a coding system for facilities and meters that indicates the type of asset and commodity associated with each meter.
To learn more, check out the DOE Unique Building Identifier project and the Buildings Energy Data Analysis Accelerator focused on the development and testing of a unique building identifier that enables spatial tagging to reduce the barriers to and cost of joining data sets.
Use the data collection phase as an opportunity to identify discrepancies in asset characterization. For example, one department may use net floor area to describe building size, while another may use gross floor area. Outdoor lights, parking garages, parking lots, and basements may not be included in a building's footprint. While there may be a valid reason for including a basement in the footprint of one building but not in another, it is recommended that organizations adopt a consistent approach.
No matter the size of your organization, you will find a hierarchical structure valuable for organizing assets in the database. Consider referencing standards like ASHRAE 211 "Standard for Commercial Building Energy Audits" and utilizing implementation tools like DOE's BuildingSync, an XML schema (i.e., ways of organizing related data items and denoting their relationships) for building energy audit data, and Audit Template, a standardized customizable data form used to collect, view, and export building energy audit information, to help you define the fields in your database.
|General Fund, Revenue, School…|
Department or Agency
|Campus, Building Complex…|
Asset Identification Code
Asset Type b
|Building, Street Light, Pumping Station…|
Primary Facility Type
|Office, Library, Fire Station…|
|Your Electric Co.|
|Gas, Electric, Water, Sewer…|
|a) A site can represent one or more assets.
b) There may be more than one asset type per site.
Assets may not always fit neatly within the organizational structure, such as cases where multiple departments occupy one building or when two buildings share the same meter. In these cases, further dividing the asset fields will avoid redundancy in the database. Another possible solution to this issue is the addition of submeters to the building.
Once you identify an appropriate structure, it can then become the framework for the database. The software you choose for the database determines the ability to display, analyze, and report data. Therefore, the software you choose should be able to match the structure. Although not sophisticated, Microsoft Excel and Access both have tools that can adequately sort and display data. Alternatively, consider leveraging the DOE SEED Platform (see "Tools: Standard Energy Efficiency Data (SEED) Platform" above for more information).
After compiling the data and standardizing an organizational structure and nomenclature, your next step is to design and build the database. After that is done, reconcile disparate data sources before populating the database.
To accurately monitor individual assets and identify cost savings, use the meter-matching process. Meter matching links individual utility meters to the assets they service. This process also presents the opportunity to remove inactive accounts and ensures attribution of utility expenditures to the corresponding cost center (e.g., agency, department, fund, and so on).
First, aggregate assets and their characteristics into a master list that represents the full portfolio of your assets to track. It is essential to identify the sources with the most reliable and current asset information. The database should ideally contain the assets currently owned and leased by your organization. The master list of assets can then serve as a point of comparison to match meters to the specific assets they service.
Utility billing records from internal sources may be incomplete. In these circumstances, reconcile data collected internally from accounts payable departments with records obtained through the utility account query. If discrepancies arise between the two utility billing data sets, work directly with appropriate parties to verify the accuracy of the information for the asset in question.
With the master asset list and the verified list of utility records in hand, you can begin matching utility meters to assets. This involves identifying a common data field (e.g., the service or street address) using asset characteristics and utility billing data.
The service address, listed on the utility bill, is the location at which each utility vendor delivers the commodity. Sometimes the service address field corresponds to the street address field associated with each asset. In that case, the asset is considered matched with the utility meter, and associated utility billing data can be added to the database.
It is common for the service address listed on the utility bill to differ from the street address of the asset. In these cases, additional research is needed to match the two.
The process of meter and asset matching includes identification of assets that share meters and assets serviced by multiple meters and submeters. It is important to note these cases in the database, so you can properly attribute and analyze.
Tools: Standard Energy Efficiency Data (SEED) Platform
Consider leveraging the DOE SEED Platform to help you reconcile your collected asset and utility data and fill data gaps. SEED helps automate the process of formatting, matching, cleaning, and validating data to identify errors.
When matching utility meters to corresponding assets, check to see whether they are linked to inactive or closed accounts. Closed accounts could have been transitioned or consolidated. Meters for closed accounts may still be active and serving other buildings for which data is needed. Scrubbing accounts to remove old inactive accounts can help to reduce the burden of tracking energy and water data. If located, inactive or closed accounts should be archived for historical energy use analysis.
K-12 School Spotlight: Portland Public Schools, Oregon
Improving Energy Data Management by Scrubbing Utility Accounts
To optimize the school district's process for collecting and tracking energy and water consumption, the Energy Specialist at Portland Public Schools (PPS) scrubbed the district's 700 utility accounts to remove outdated and inactive accounts. As a result, PPS reduced the number of utility accounts by more than 30%, making energy data tracking more manageable and less costly.Learn More
The accounts payable department that maintains utility billing records uses various codes to attribute utility expenditures to specific cost centers. To ensure bills are matched to the appropriate department (as identified in the master asset list), verify the cost center or accounting codes associated with each utility bill. This analysis identifies cases of usage and cost information attributed to or paid by the incorrect cost center, which can be the result of unreported office moves or changes in asset management personnel. Catching these accounting errors ensures that specific agency, departmental, and fund budgets are more accurately estimated.
|Type of Data Error or Gap||Potential Causes||Possible Consequences|
|Utility meter with no corresponding asset on record||
|Asset with no corresponding utility account||
|Bills with zero consumption||
|Lack of bill||
|* This situation is common with leased space where there is one master meter and the utility bills are split up by the owner although paid by the tenants; therefore, there is a corresponding utility account, but it will not belong to the organization creating the database.|
Investigate Unmatched Meters and Assets
When matching meters with asset characteristics, it is common to find multiple addresses representing the same asset. In these cases, meters cannot be easily matched using a common address. You can use one of several techniques to match meters with assets; however, a combination of techniques may be necessary to accurately match all meters to assets they service.
Match Meters by Leveraging Existing Information
Utility Rate Codes
The rate codes on utility bills associated with individual meters provide valuable information on the primary function of the asset that it services. Utilities assign different rate codes to meters servicing buildings, streetlights, traffic lights, water pumps, and other commodity-consuming assets.
These codes vary across vendors. Check with each vendor to determine which rate codes are associated with each asset type. Knowing the rate code for a meter indicates the type of asset billed by the vendor, which can help narrow the number of unmatched meters that could service a particular asset. If you perform this analysis, you may also identify assets assigned the incorrect rate code. Fixing these errors can lead to additional cost savings.
Online Mapping Applications
Free online mapping applications (e.g., Google Maps, Microsoft Maps, and so on) can be effective tools for determining which meter services a particular asset. Use these to map the address of the unmatched asset, or the service address of an unmatched meter, until you find a service address in close proximity to the asset in question. Through the Buildings Energy Data Analysis Accelerator, DOE is working with stakeholders, including state and local governments, to develop a unique building identifier that enables spatial tagging to reduce the barriers to and cost of joining datasets and to pilot it in real-world settings. To learn more, check out the DOE Unique Building Identifier project.
Local Government Spotlight: Hillsboro, Oregon
Geographic Information System (GIS) Software
GIS software is designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, and display multiple layers of geographical data. GIS tools are utilized in much the same way as online mapping software but offer the additional capability of interpretation of multiple data points across multiple data layers.
Local Government Spotlight: Fort Worth, Texas
Using Asset Characteristics to Identify Corresponding Meters
You can use asset characteristics and consumption data to identify asset meter matches. The characteristics of a particular asset (e.g., asset type, gross square footage, primary facility type, and so on) can predict expected energy use for that asset. For example, a large building with a data center will typically have higher energy use intensity than a smaller building without energy intensive components or loads.
The source of utility billing data and asset characteristics (i.e., a specific department or agency) can help narrow down the assets and meters with potential matches. For example, if the transportation department is responsible for traffic lights, then utility billing data from that department can facilitate matching meters to traffic lights.
Mapping assets to meters based on expected energy consumption will allow you to uncouple meters from unmatched assets. The Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey provides typical consumption data based on size and other asset characteristics. It also serves as a guide to determine expected energy consumption for particular buildings. You can also use ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager's property type definitions to determine your building's type and then compare your building's energy use intensity with the median energy use intensity of buildings in the United States with that same property type.
Asset Survey Tool
A well-designed survey can be a useful tool for collecting additional data needed to match meters to assets. It makes the most sense for larger organizations with engaged stakeholders willing to take the time to provide thorough responses.
The survey can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet that lists categories of the requested data. Although not required, a survey displaying all data for the assets in question and known data gaps might facilitate the response process.
Tools: Building Energy Audit Template (Audit Template)
Consider utilizing DOE's Building Energy Audit Template (Audit Template), a standardized customizable data form used to collect, view, and export building energy audit information, as your asset survey tool.
Distribute the survey to staff with the most institutional knowledge of the assets in question. They can then investigate meters and assets onsite, eliminating the need for you to make site visits.
Local Government Spotlight:
San Francisco, California
Web-based survey for completing and verifying a comprehensive building database
To increase the level of detail and accuracy of the city-owned building portfolio data, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission developed a web-based survey to collect and verify building characteristics. The accuracy of the city's building database improved to an estimated 95% of the portfolio.Learn More
To fill gaps in data, it may be necessary to visit an asset to verify meter location and collect other pertinent asset characteristics. While site visits require a significant time investment, on-site examination of the facility can be invaluable in helping you decide how to track energy consumption for that particular location.
For example, a site visit can reveal building repurposing from a research facility to an office space, which may explain energy use based on the design, type of equipment, and building envelope. When performing a site visit, walk the site with the facility manager responsible for maintaining the asset to understand how it is used. It is important to:
- Investigate night and weekend consumption patterns
- Record all meter types and numbers located on-site.
If your organization is large with hundreds of assets in your portfolio, it might not be feasible to visit all sites. Alternatively, you could conduct selected site visits for matching meters and collecting asset characteristics. During a site visit, you can also apprise facility managers and occupants of various techniques available for reducing energy consumption.
TIP: Utilize Student Interns to Perform Site Visits
Instead of paid staff, use student interns to conduct site visits for confirming meter locations and matching utility bill data to assets. North Carolina used summer interns to plot meter locations on blueprint maps for a Department of Corrections site. If available, obtain copies of distribution maps from the utility servicing the asset to improve the efficiency of site visits. North Carolina State University used distribution maps provided by Progress Energy as a tool to assist in the confirmation of the location and identification numbers of all the meters on its campus.
Utility Meter Reader Assistance
When possible, request assistance from meter readers to locate meters and record their identification numbers during their monthly rounds. When data gaps arise, consider investigating unmatched assets in the order of contribution to overall energy use or cost to the portfolio. Strategic approaches like this allow you to more efficiently progress toward completeness. Keep in mind that the central energy database is a dynamic database, and overall completeness and accuracy is difficult to achieve; however, you are encouraged to track consumption of all vendor accounts, even if a subset of meters remains unmatched.
Portfolios change as assets are acquired or divested, when meters are added or replaced, and/or utility vendors are substituted. Without a defined methodology for updating the central energy database, accuracy can quickly deteriorate; therefore, it is necessary to establish protocols to ensure you document changes periodically and appropriately for maintaining the accuracy and completeness of the database over time.
Consistent communication among managers across departments is key to maintaining a database's integrity and ensuring its usefulness for energy management. The person responsible for tracking energy and water consumption and costs needs to be notified when assets are added, divested, or modified. The following strategies will help ensure the maintenance and accuracy of the database:
- Establish a policy that requires individual managers to communicate sales, purchases, new construction, office moves, and new leases or terminations to managers and the appropriate accounts payable staff
- Notify accounts payable to discontinue corresponding utilities promptly following lease terminations
- Participate in meetings involving new construction and acquisitions.
Example: City Protocols for Adding and Removing Meters and Assets
Houston, Texas, requires its utility manager to authorize the installation and removal of all meters, allowing for the seamless tracking of meter activation and deactivation.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the energy manager sits in on property services meetings to ensure he is apprised of changes to the city's portfolio of assets.
Meters are added, removed, and replaced during asset renovations, submetering projects, and meter upgrades. These can add or change meter numbers corresponding to a particular asset. For some assets, fuel switching and customer choice in deregulated markets can also affect utility billing data. The following strategies will help to ensure accuracy of utility billing data in these cases:
- Work with utility vendors to set up periodic exchanges of the most current account information; and
- Identify individuals responsible for commodity purchases and institute a policy where utility vendor modifications are relayed directly to you.
Example: How Houston Stays Abreast of Meter Changes
In Houston, Texas, CenterPoint Energy occasionally changes out meters without notifying the city. To account for these unexpected changes, the city's energy manager requests an updated list of meter numbers during quarterly meetings with utility staff.
Even with protocols and policies in place for adding and removing assets and updating utility billing data, inaccuracies will likely arise within the database. To avoid this, conduct a comprehensive annual review of asset and utility billing data. This is also an opportunity to inform individual asset managers or departments about trends in commodity usage from the previous year.
Local Government Spotlight:
San Francisco, California
Maintaining the Integrity of the Database
The San Francisco Department of the Environment created a system for maintaining the integrity of its database by using a web-based spreadsheet for disseminating and verifying the accuracy of the city's energy and water consumption data. The low-cost system streamlined the process, requiring each city department to produce an annual climate plan.Learn More
The key to any of the strategies outlined above is to integrate them into your organization's culture. For specific models, see Step 6: Optimize the Organizational Structure.
You can use the following sample central energy databases as a reference for building your own central energy database.