When energy management systems don’t work

Posted on: Monday, September 25th, 2017

Our approach to energy management solutions was wrong!

It was at the end of what I thought was a positive meeting that my business prospect pulled the rug out from under me. ‘Son,’ he said, ‘I’ve invested millions on energy management systems in my career and what I know to be the truth is that all energy management systems can work but they don’t work. You guys keep coming back to me with your innovations and new protocols and whatnot for reduction and improvement and you show me your case studies and the facts of the how and what, but none of you has solved the basics yet. The basics are people. My people.’

While this wasn’t exactly an admonishment, the wind was taken out of my sails as I just got lumped in with everyone else when I thought I was making headway on being unique with what we’ve been developing and pushing as a solution. As it turns out the only thing we had innovated and then promoted was another step in the wrong direction.

User-friendly is the buzzword we’ve bandied about for a few years now. Make it user-friendly and everyone will buy into using your energy management solution, right? Well, no actually. And that’s N-O in big capitals. The reality that my prospect-turned-critic clearly spelt out is that no matter how user-friendly (or not) our energy management system and accompanying software are, they are not time-friendly and therefore not addressing the basics; his people.

In between fixing leaks, problems in the plant, keeping on top of endless maintenance and equipment service issues or taking calls from irate guests or tenants, an engineering department of a hotel, resort, hospital or business park are at the sharp end of time constraints. Just try getting a clear appointment space with anyone in maintenance – they barely have opportunity to sit down in a day let alone optimise his or her energy performance through the user-friendly software we or anyone else provides.

Mr. Experienced-Buyer was right. Corporate targets, green goals and budgeted savings from energy reduction get torpedoed when nothing can be actioned on the front line. This whole concept of developers selling the ‘user-friendly’ dream hasn’t breached the barrier for the level of involvement an engineering team can reasonably dedicate to the control systems that big money is invested in. Period.

So now what? Clarity on the issue is one thing, acceptance that you’re on a dead-end path is another. Recriminations aside, what followed for our company has been really challenging on deconstructing these barriers that stop energy management systems from working: people, time and involvement.

We’re still trying to come up with the neat phrase that encapsulate how we made this transformative step but nothing yet has stuck as an accurate descriptor of the processes. We knew at the outset that to be successful we needed to find key-information from all the data we could collect and assemble, and that route to finding this key-information came from something we called the ‘democratisation of data’…. and yes, I know that sounds a bit weird, but then innovative approaches often do.

Still, funny phrases aside, we’re ready to talk to anyone who wants to listen about why energy management systems don’t work but now can. Reach out to me here. I’m happy to share what my colleagues and I have learnt on this journey.

Let's get started

We are SENS Recent Work

It's time to be better

Get more info