Harnessing the Power of Real-Time Data: How Advanced Monitoring Transforms Energy Management Muthuraj Marimuthu May 23, 2024

Harnessing the Power of Real-Time Data: How Advanced Monitoring Transforms Energy Management

Energy monitoring and management is crucial in today’s regulatory environment. It aids in demonstrating compliance with emissions regulations, helping organisations to avoid penalties. It also contributes to sustainability efforts and reduces costs by guiding companies towards more efficient consumption practises.

According to the Carbon Trust, more than 60% of companies worldwide are now taking steps to reduce their energy use. One of the keys to doing so effectively is collecting and analysing data in real-time. So, in this article, we’ll explore the technologies behind this approach, the ways it aids decision making, and some challenges involved – along with their solutions.

How is Real-Time Energy Data Collected?

In energy management, real-time data refers to data that’s collected from a variety of sources and made available almost immediately. Sources include meters, fuel gauges, solar panels, wind turbines, and industrial machinery.

The type of data collected includes measurements on electricity usage, energy generation rates, fuel consumption, and the operational status of equipment.

Smart meters and Internet of Things (IoT) devices are at the forefront of this practise. While meters provide precise and immediate feedback on electrical usage, IoT sensors can be integrated into various assets and systems to monitor a wide range of variables.

The Benefits of Real-Time Monitoring

Real-time energy monitoring offers numerous benefits that can significantly enhance energy management practices across sectors. Below are some of its key advantages.

Immediate Issue Detection

Real-time monitoring allows for the immediate detection of anomalies and inefficiencies in energy usage. Abnormal usage patterns such as sudden spikes in consumption can be quickly identified, enabling timely interventions to address potential equipment malfunctions or operational inefficiencies.

For example, you could detect whether lighting or heating had been left on outside of operational hours, and the immediacy of the real-time data – combined with real-time alerts – means action could be taken at once in order to prevent further waste.

This immediacy also eliminates potential inaccuracies typically associated with other methods of data collection and reporting, enhancing the reliability of energy data. This is critical for reporting and compliance purposes.

Greater Precision for Better Conservation Practises

Real-time monitoring enables more precise control over energy consumption. Organisations can then efficiently managing resource use, minimising their environmental footprint.

Load Balancing

An example of how this improved precision translates into greater efficiency pertains to load balancing. Real-time monitoring helps in balancing energy loads more effectively across different systems and times of day, which is particularly useful in industries where energy demand varies significantly. It allows for adjustments to be made dynamically, which enhances system stability and efficiency.

Demand Response Programmes

Load balancing enables demand response programs, where businesses reduce their energy load during peak times in exchange for financial incentives. This not only helps in managing energy costs but also supports grid stability during high-demand periods.

In future, we’ll likely see more automated demand response programmes which may hasten the transition to Net Zero. According to the IEA, a Korean pilot programme for this purpose demonstrated 24% improvements in electricity savings.

Support for Renewable Energy Integration

In 2023, 47.3% of the UK’s electricity generation was from renewables – a record-breaking figure that was driven by offshore wind generation. As renewables become more widely used, real-time monitoring becomes crucial for managing their variability, enabling better load adjustment, and improving storage solutions based on real-time production and demand data.

Additional Benefits in Industrial Settings

Advanced energy monitoring technologies have powerful applications in manufacturing and other industrial settings by contributing to preventive and predictive maintenance strategies.

Data on energy use helps in the understanding of asset performance and can be fed into maintenance management systems, improving the robustness of preventive/predictive approaches.

Energy Monitoring Challenges and Solutions

While energy monitoring is vital, inadequate security measures can be disruptive and not every company has the resources to analyse the volumes of data produced. We’ll now go over these challenges along with potential solutions.

Privacy

The Risks

Sensitive information can be included in the data that energy monitoring system collect. The unauthorised access or mishandling of this data can lead to breaches, potentially revealing information about a business’ activities.

Operational Data

This includes detailed metrics on how, where, and when energy is used throughout the business’ operations. This can reveal details about production processes, operational schedules, and facility management practices that are proprietary in nature.

Financial Information

With systems accessing data on consumption costs, its exposure could give external parties insights into the company’s operating margins.

Equipment Data

Data collected from assets regarding their consumption patterns, efficiency levels, and operational timelines can be sensitive. In certain cases, it could potentially reveal information about proprietary technology used within the machines.

Location Data

For businesses operating in sectors where site location may be sensitive (such as mining, energy production, or research facilities), detailed data on energy usage could inadvertently reveal location-specific details.

Other Strategic Information

Energy data can sometimes indirectly reveal information about company strategies, such as shifts in production, expansion of facilities, or the scaling up or down of operations.

How to Protect Sensitive Data in Energy Monitoring

Protecting sensitive data requires employing the security practises that any business should use to protect data of any kind, including:

  • Robust encryption: Use strong encryption techniques for data at rest and in transit. This ensures that even if it were intercepted, it could not be easily deciphered.
  • Strict access controls: Strict access controls and authentication mechanisms ensure that only authorised personnel have access to the data.
  • Network security: Implement robust network security measures for the network through which energy data is transmitted and accessed.
  • Partner with trusted software providers: Ensure that any software you use is from a company that is compliant with international, country-specific and industry specific security standards.

More than 50 commercial customers – including 95% of UK water companies – trust Optii to securely handle their energy data.

IoT Security

If using sensors and other IoT devices to collect and transmit data, there are additional risks. Attackers target such devices in order to access your network, not necessarily to manipulate the devices themselves.

Once one of these devices is compromised, the risk that other systems will be compromised increases. Of course, in a setting where thousands of sensors are in use, the risk increases exponentially and could even lead to DDoS attacks.

The main issue with IoT devices is that, in many cases, they lack built-in security. It’s vital to conduct due diligence regarding suppliers and change the default passwords for any devices.

Other ways to protect them include keeping their firmware and software up-to-date and again, practising proper network security. In some situations, IoT devices are set up on a separate network from other critical systems, for added protection.

Information Overload

Finally, let’s talk about information overload. A typical factory that uses IoT generates 1 Petabyte of data every single day (that’s 1,000 Terabytes), while a connected offshore oil rig continually gathers data from more than 30,000 sensors. Large multi-site operations also have data from numerous meters to manage.

According to Cisco, 99.5% of data that’s collected is never analysed, and it’s no wonder – there’s simply too much of it and most companies don’t have the resources in-house to sift through it and find valuable insights. Thankfully, we have the answer.

Optima’s Bureau Services

With our Bureau Services, we manage and maintain our customers’ energy portfolios, conducting the analysis for them. In fact, we do so for some of the UK’s largest retail, utilities, and property management companies.

Optii, our analytics platform, enables you to validate invoices and find insights in-house – but with our Bureau Services, our team handles the heavy lifting for you. Not only do our customers benefit from their expertise, they also receive personal responses explaining the reports and advising on the best actions to take.

By outsourcing this aspect of energy management, you can focus on your main priorities – staying compliant, and implementing steps to become more energy efficient.

Conclusion

Real-time data provides the tools to make proactive, informed, and strategic decisions about energy consumption.

With the help of specialised services such as our Bureau services, businesses can overcome the challenges of data overload and privacy concerns, reaping the rewards of reduced costs, greater sustainability, and easier compliance processes.

To request a demo of the most accurate and scalable invoice validation software in the country – or to enquire about our Bureau Services – contact us today.

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Discover how one of the UK's largest water companies

SAVED £££

by using Optima energy invoice validation services

WATER COMPANY CASE STUDY

DOWNLOAD NOW!

Send case study to: