University cuts power bill 10 percent through asset management


Forrester Research recently reported that something like 45 percent of businesses are investing in some sort of enterprise software for managing energy consumption. A case study that shows how Bentley University has been using one such application, Infor EAM Asset Sustainability, gives you a sense of why this is so–and why this sort of thing isn't just for big companies.

The university originally looked to the Infor software as a means of automating maintenance workflow across its 46 facilities. More recently, it began wondering how to apply this same automation to managing its electricity consumption. Specifically, by integrating the software with building control systems to get a better sense of what was operating properly, and what metrics should be questioned. The software also helps with preventive maintenance.

When I spoke with the Bentley University energy systems engineer, Jess Marshall, about the project, she says the overall mission is to manage each building system (or "asset") so that it is running at its most optimal levels. By managing these technologies to certain guidelines — recognizing that each day brings new operating variables in the form of weather changes and building occupancy — the university can keep things running more smoothly, she says.

"We understand how a piece of equipment should be running vs. how it IS running," Marshall says.

So, for example, the university staff was able to see that one of its chillers was working at a dramatically different rate than the others. It was consuming 20 percent more electricity. So, the engineers adjusted the settings and made a different chiller the lead system for that building, using the more energy-hungry one as a backup, Marshall says.

In the first 11 months of using the software, Marshall says the university has reduced electricity consumption campus-wide by almost 10 percent. That's more than 2 million kilowatt hours, or the equivalent of turning off all the electricity on the campus for about 30 days.

Marshall says, where necessary, the university is using basic energy meters from Schneider Electric to feed the data into the Info software. Some of the building systems can interact with the software directly.

The visual is a Thermographic Building Summary of the university's Kresge Hall. The gray areas are unoccupied space, while the green shows occupied portions.

Rod Elsworth, vice president of global asset sustainability for Infor, says the sustainability edition of its enterprise asset management application can be licensed according to the number of concurrent users or according to the number of meters that are feeding information.

Heather Clancy

Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist with a passion for green technology and corporate sustainability issues. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. In a past corporate life, Heather was editor of Computer Reseller News, where she was a featured speaker about everything from software as a service to IT security to mobile computing.

Heather started her journalism life as a business writer with United Press International in New York. She holds a B.A. in English literature from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and has a thing for Lewis Carroll.