Sustainability | April 30, 2024

Unlocking value with Energy Management Systems (EMS)

Energy management systems (EMS) are becoming a must-have for many companies, as more businesses see the value of increased visibility and control across their commercial and industrial building portfolios. But recognizing the power of EMS  is different from knowing how to wield it effectively. Expert insight is vital to not only tap into the opportunity — but also to avert a range of pitfalls.

With skillful planning and deployment, automated energy controls systems can revolutionize building management by enabling facility leaders to mastermind HVAC, lighting, refrigeration, and more with unprecedented ease, unlocking all-new avenues in energy savings, maintenance efficiencies, and sustainability strategy. Today more than 60% of larger U.S. commercial buildings utilize some form of EMS technology, experiencing first-hand its capacity to optimize energy costs, reduce environmental impact, and future-proof assets in one concerted solution.

Read on to learn about basic EMS offerings, the potential benefits of advanced technology, and how to overcome obstacles and identify solutions by asking the right questions along the way.

Basic EMS for energy savings and sustainability reporting

A basic energy management system allowing organizations to monitor, manage, and optimize energy performance efficiently across multiple operations and facilities.

Through a series of interacting processes including energy data analysis, goal-setting, and reporting tools, basic EMS equips businesses with a centralized framework to weave energy strategy into daily operations — as opposed to flying blind with less-structured, ad-hoc management methods.

This data-driven visibility enhances operational efficiency and energy cost savings, while helping facility leaders manage reporting and gain visibility into Scope 1 and 2 emissions. It also helps organizations benchmark energy usage against peers, streamline utility bill management, and meet evolving regulatory requirements, from local building performance system energy usage intensity targets to the SEC’s new rules for climate disclosure.

For smaller businesses, a basic EMS solution may be exactly what you need to take energy strategy to the next level, without overspending on tools that are more sophisticated than might make sense for your organization’s size and needs.

For companies with bigger footprints and more ambitious energy performance goals, however, advanced tools can provide even greater benefits from a facility repair and replacement perspective — particularly when applied on a large portfolio-wide scale.

Advanced EMS for next-level facility strategy

More sophisticated energy management options are available for companies ready to achieve even greater organizational value. Designed to integrate with building automation systems (BAS), today’s highly connected, advanced EMS solutions empower facility teams with preventive maintenance tools they can use to make proactive decisions about equipment maintenance, avoiding unforeseen failures, predicting replacement needs, and optimizing site visits.

These tech-enabled energy management tools safeguard against unreliable facilities and business interruption, providing visibility into facility issues and energy inefficiencies. An advanced EMS solution takes thousands of data points from across these sources and synthesizes it in real time to detect faults, prioritize issues, and generate actionable work orders — in turn averting the risk of business interruption and revenue loss caused by unreliable facilities and aging equipment.

Advanced EMS can also reduce maintenance expenses along with the higher costs of emergency repairs. Say a building is too hot, for example. Rather than going in blind, facility engineers can look at EMS data to remotely assess whether, say, the damper is stuck, and deploy a technician to fix it — as opposed to sending technicians out multiple times to first identify and then resolve an issue. Better yet, advanced EMS can help facility teams prevent unplanned HVAC failures in the first place.

How might these capabilities stack up in your organization? Consider, for inspiration, the example of a major discount retailer that sought greater visibility into energy use and maintenance and tapped Mantis Innovation to develop an EMS with monitoring and remote control of HVAC, lighting, and refrigeration equipment. Currently in deployment across 16,000+ locations, the project is now estimated to achieve a 15% internal rate of return, with $40 million annual energy cost reductions, and $30 million annual savings in losses from store closures.

What to ask before investing in EMS

As we’ve shown, the benefits of EMS can be significant — but the key word is can. Too many companies invest in basic management tools assuming they’ll save money just by installing the software. Without proper planning, just the opposite can be true!

To achieve an EMS solution best suited for your organization and its ambitions, start by asking the following questions:

  • What solutions make sense for your current needs? If yours is a smaller company with a relatively small real estate footprint, basic EMS solutions may be best; for larger, more complex companies with larger buildings, advanced solutions may be in order.

So, what is your vision for energy management? Are you looking for basic support with centralizing data and reporting, or are you in a position to unlock even greater value with advanced capabilities? A strong solution for your organization will strike the balance between obtaining enough data to create value, and not over-buying for features you don’t need or won’t use.

For those looking at advanced EMS, you’ll also need to consider whether existing investments like BAS and computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) will be compatible with a prospective solution.

  • How are you going to use the tool? Every program requires at least some human effort to actually put the data to work. For example, energy benchmarking may reveal low and high performers across a portfolio — but someone needs to turn that data into action and proactively reach out to low performers to determine what’s going on. Assess early on who will use the tool along with how and what those workflows should look like.

And remember, culture change and user adoption don’t happen by accident: Effective stakeholder engagement and training are critical.

  • What should you expect in terms of costs, and value? Knowing your organizational purpose in an EMS investment, assess what it will cost to get there, and the potential for return on investment. Basic EMS options can help you identify low-hanging-fruit energy efficiency improvements, leading to potential savings. And advanced EMS can generate even deeper value by averting store closures and optimizing equipment performance with proactive maintenance. Understanding what value is within reach will help you make the best decisions.
  • How can you build a program that aligns with your business goals? The marketplace is crowded with software vendors promising to run buildings better, and many can. But the reality is, the right solution for one organization is the wrong one for another. Project value depends on a range of factors, from facility size to procurement strategy. Look for a facility services provider that understands the market — and knows how to help you put your business objectives first.

With the right solutions and program leadership, modern energy management processes can create deep organizational value and demonstrate environmental commitment. To learn more about unlocking the benefits of EMS across your organization, contact a Mantis pro today.