Energy savings from energy measurements
Climate change and energy issues are hot topics every day. Every one of us can stop to think how we could save energy as individuals. I work in a company which produces energy management services, and I would like to describe how energy savings can be achieved through energy measurements.
In 2009, the Finnish Government prescribed a decree, within the scope of which each electricity distribution system operator (DSO) needed to equip their customers’ properties e.g. homes and cottages with remotely readable meters to register each customer’s hourly electricity consumption. I believe that this decree is based on the fact that, when energy is measured more frequently than, say, once a month and when hourly information is made available to customers, this system encourages consumers to think about their ways of using electricity.
Let’s go back to the time before any remotely readable meters. Typically, electricity was invoiced on the basis of estimates so that an identical amount was charged every month. The electricity meter was read once a year, on the basis of which a debit or credit invoice was prepared. These invoices had the tendency of being somewhat complicated. Customer satisfaction surveys conducted among DSO customers indicated that customers were the most dissatisfied with invoices that were difficult to interpret. After receiving an invoice, customers called the DSO company, asking for an understandable description, or, as most of us did, were just amazed by the large amount of electricity consumed and kindly paid our invoices. Soon after paying the invoice, the whole thing was soon forgotten. Needless to say, that this system didn’t encourage consumers to save energy.
Modern electricity meters collect hourly data once a day, usually at night. Once this data has been collected, it is first checked whether data has been collected from every location. If there are any missing locations, the meters are read again. Next, the quality of the measured data is verified by checking the data and its status and making any necessary adjustments. Different statuses include measured, uncertain or missing. At the same time, it is checked that there are no excessively high values or any gaps in hourly data. Successfully checked measurement data is available to everyone in Finland on DSO companies service portals, usually in a mobile app or website.
"We can analyse our energy consumption online using different filters: we can, for example, compare different years with each other or examine the past few days at an hourly level. Online applications allow us to compare our energy consumption with similar locations and, therefore, see whether we are major, regular or thrifty energy consumers."
I’ve interviewed many DSO companies to identify how many of their customers use this freely available service. It’s amazing how few of us are really interested in analysing our energy consumption. I believe that many of us would open our eyes if we only spent some time to analyse how we use energy. Hourly measurement data easily indicates how much energy we consume at home and how high consumption can be. In addition, it is possible to identify how energy can be saved. For example, there is no need to keep computers on all the time or to keep the sauna hot for three hours instead of the usual one.
We will focus more on energy efficiency in the future. During the next few years, we will shift from hourly energy monitoring to a 15-minute interval system. This enables more detailed analyses. In fact, even a shorter measurement cycle has been proposed in some forums. Different functions of the next generation’s meters are being defined at an increasing pace. Developing data transfer technologies offer more real-time data and also enable the control of loads (such as heating) automatically and unnoticeably. Service providers are designing solutions and services that help energy consumers to improve their use of energy and reduce their carbon footprint – in other words, reduce the use of fossil fuels. The aim is to find attractive solutions for users of electricity to help them to achieve savings. After all, affordability is still a significant factor in addition to ethical reasons. I’d like to make my own personal promise: my small act for the environment is that I’ll allow my hot water boiler to be regulated in the background without me noticing that someone else is switching it on and off.
I’d like to encourage everyone to check what their local DSO company has to offer in their free online service. Let’s believe in a more energy-efficient future and let’s do good for the environment whenever we can!
Juha Kiukas, Sales Manager, Energy Intelligence business