In this day and age, when sustainability is trendy and utility costs are skyrocketing, companies need all the help they can get to be more cost and energy efficient. Urjanet’s utility data aggregation service can help. It compiles data on all of a company’s utilities usage from utility bills and smart meters and puts it into a single feed for businesses to utilize. Once you receive the data feed, you can make better decisions about your energy use data.
After Cox Enterprises approached Urjanet to look at their energy usage and spend on 40,000 separate energy accounts, Cox cut costs by 15 percent in some markets and immediately saved $4,000 by moving a handful of accounts to an alternate rate, according to a corporate case study. And that’s only part of the data they’ve implemented so far.
Urjanet concentrates on compiling a company’s utility data, no matter how complex or in disarray it is, and translates it into big energy savings. “We provide energy data as a service. Many companies, especially businesses that spend a lot of money on buying energy, have sustainability goals; trying to become more green, trying to manage energy risk in the marketplace. We provide them with data that [allows] them to achieve all these goals,” says Sanjoy Malik, CEO and founder.
Malik explains how your company may not be using its energy efficiently, what mistakes you might be making, and how to stay on top of sustainability and savings.
In Urjanet’s work with customers, what are some common ways you’ve discovered that companies are failing to use energy efficiently?
When companies and businesses get focused on this problem, they find that there are so many things they can do to use energy efficiently. A simple thing they can do to reduce their cost is to just manage when and how they use their energy. As with any variable-priced commodity, energy also costs more or less at different times, so by having visibility into how much energy is used when and how much it costs at different times, there’s huge opportunities to save energy and money. For example, by looking at their complete energy usage data, a retail store chain may discover that the air conditioning is cheaper to use in the morning versus in the afternoon, so you can then make strategic decisions around that information.
Why is energy more expensive at some times versus others?
Because of demand. There is a fixed amount of capability for producing energy, so even though you have all these utilities and power plants supplying energy to the grid, they can only produce a certain amount of energy in a cost effective manner for them. For example, during summertime, energy demand in the afternoon (when everybody’s putting on their air conditioning) sometimes exceeds the peak load of what utility companies can produce, which affects pricing.
Just as with Uber, with energy you also have surge pricing, so the timing of when you use energy becomes very, very important in terms of managing your cost. What Urjanet can do is provide the data necessary to understand what a company’s usage and costs look like, at which point a company can develop strategies to avoid surge pricing and reliably manage and predict their energy use and spend.
Have you guys seen any particular examples of changes that you have told customers, of things they should do? Have you actually seen that change happen? Are people very receptive?
When people start using our data, it’s like their eyes get opened, because you can’t manage what you can’t measure. For example, if you don’t look at your bank account and you don’t look at your checkbook balance as you’re making purchases and paying bills, you will never be able to manage your spending. You can manage your spending and you can get to your goals only if you have good data.
One of the biggest things we do for our customers is provide them data that gives them visibility they’ve never had before, and they suddenly start to recognize, “Oh yeah, this particular building is using much more energy than similar size buildings in the same type of climate. What can we do to improve?” Or “The rate plan we’re on is not suited for the way we use energy, and when we use it, so we can switch to a more suitable rate to save money,” or “We want to do a lighting retrofit project to see if we can increase the efficiency, and now we’ll finally have the data to be able to measure whether the project is a success.”
Why should companies look at their utility data?
I think it is very important for many reasons. One is that as a business you want to be using your money as efficiently as possible, and energy cost is a big spend item. If you look at your balance sheet, energy spend could be as much as thirty-five percent or more of your total cost, so if you can save money, it drops directly to your bottom line. Not only will be more profitable if you spend less money on energy or water or any of these other commodities, you can reallocate the savings to parts of the business that drive more profit, such as marketing and sales.
Another great reason to get a handle on your utility data is that businesses are being forced to be more green, more sustainable. Consumers like you and I are demanding that the products we buy are more sustainable, that the companies we do business with are more sustainable. Sustainability in itself is an important goal for all these businesses, so they’re trying to achieve those goals and can’t measure progress without the data.
A third important reason to have visibility into your utility data is managing risk. If you don’t have a clear picture of your energy use and costs, there is a risk. Natural gas prices might go up one year and suddenly you have this big spend that you had not budgeted for, and then you need to adjust quickly and make decisions based on a complete set of data. Managing energy risk in the marketplace is very important for our customers.
Most of our customers know the problem. Most of our customers understand that energy, water, and waste are important to manage, but they don’t necessarily understand how much they are using and where they’re spending money and what that really means. We can provide the data that truly helps them understand the whole picture.
Photos by Muriel Vega, center photo of Urjanet provided through this photo credit.