With spikes in demand from commercial users during times of extreme weather, the management of energy costs has made national headlines. This has spanned rolling blackouts in parts of South Australia and threats of power disruptions across Western Victoria to preserve the integrity of the grid in New South Wales.
These events can have significant cost implications for businesses, and planning for one-off or sustained weather events requires the ability to make quick decisions that have the potential to drastically reduce overall energy costs.
However, a disruption to energy supply is not the only factor that can weigh on energy-related expenses for companies.
The formulas many power companies use to set their network charges – which can make up around half of your total power bill – mean that your business can continue to be charged for a spike in energy demand long after the droughts have turned back to flooding rains or vice versa.
This can be because, dependent on the tariff applied to the business, utility companies set their network charges for a full billing period based on usage during peak periods.
Power companies typically record their customers’ energy demand in 15 or 30-minute blocks (measured in kilovolt-amperes or kVa), and then charge the business at the rate set by the highest block across their entire billing cycle.
In practice, what this means is that a 15-minute surge in energy demand can add significantly to your company’s bills.
The good news for savvy managers is that you can easily save thousands of dollars in costs simply by monitoring and managing your peak energy usage.
Taking simple steps to manage the energy load such as adjusting the temperature set-point on your air conditioning unit by a degree or two at times of higher demand, or shifting consumption to off-peak periods to can allow you to lower your peak energy usage rates, resulting in lower bills across your entire billing cycle.
In the medium/longer term, it is often worthwhile to invest in equipment to optimise energy usage. For example, for businesses with a low power factor, installing a power factor correction unit can reduce demand for kVa and lead to decreased costs. Energy efficiency measures such as improved controls and LED lights can also reduce peak demand and energy use.
A product such as Energy Action’s Energy Metrics Platinum service can assist in these efforts by giving you a visual dashboard showing your business’ energy consumption, demand and cost in near real-time (measured in five-minute intervals).
The Energy Metrics Platinum dashboard allows you to see your current and past energy usage, including temperatures, and compare them to previous days with similar weather conditions over the past four months.
What sets Energy Metrics Platinum apart from other similar products on the market is that it uses weather information and information about your business’s historical energy use to do a live forecast of your predicted energy demand.
Based on these forecasts, the service can send you an alert via email or SMS text message warning you that you’re likely to hit a peak load demand that will dramatically raise your bill, allowing you to begin taking proactive steps to manage the situation.
Alongside the dashboard, the service also includes a host of other features to help businesses manage their bills, including annual tariff reviews, regular energy usage reports, budget estimates, 13-month usage history reports, bill validation and access to Energy Action’s new mobile app.
So while there are a range of factors that can impact both energy supply and demand, putting the right management practices and tools in place can help you make quick decisions to save costs.