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Manage Your Energy Data: Energy Monitoring Software Types And Differences

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ALVARO RAMIRO GUZMÁN

Alvaro Guzmán, Business Development and Innovation Manager at FlexiDAO, is an expert in renewable energy procurement. He is a passionate business professional with strong experience in building relationships and consulting.
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Published
September 21, 2021
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Manage Your Energy Data: Energy Monitoring Software Types And Differences

  • Companies use a variety of software types to monitor, manage, and report on energy usage. 
  • Learn the key differences between common softwares used to track energy: EMS software, sustainability reporting software, and renewable energy monitoring software. 

Many teams within corporations need to access energy data. Sustainability teams need energy data for environmental reporting. Energy teams need data to efficiently manage operations. Procurement teams need energy data to help purchasing decisions. Finance teams need energy data for financial reporting and budgeting. The list goes on. But they all use separate data silos and different software to collect and utilise the data. In this article, we discuss a few of the different types of energy monitoring softwares and other sustainability software available on the market. We look at their primary functions and some of the pros and cons of each one.

Which types of software are available to collect, analyse, and report energy data?

There are three types of software to mention: Energy Management Systems (EMS), Sustainability Reporting Software, and Renewable Energy Monitoring Software.

1. Energy Management Systems (EMS)

This is the most common software that businesses are familiar with. Energy Management System (EMS) software is designed to monitor the energy use within a facility. The primary function of an EMS is to provide building operators and energy managers with data surrounding the energy usage at their sites. A more modern EMS software has the ability to monitor energy use at device level and send alerts for energy use anomalies.

A common issue can be ensuring the consistency of EMS data that is used to make corporate decisions. Consistency across EMS software is difficult to achieve as plants will likely be using different EMS software with varying levels of modernity. 

This issue is especially prevalent when companies use EMS data for sustainability reporting. For example, if a sustainability manager needs to collect data from plants in the UK, Spain, the US, and India – it’s more likely that they’ll use different EMS software brands, models, ages, etc. The outputs of these software can come in different excel formats that will then be consolidated in the same sheet. This opens up the opportunity for human error when collecting, analysing, and sharing energy data. 

Primary Function: Monitor energy consumption meter data at the “site” level.  

Pros:

  • Detailed and accurate monitoring of energy meter consumption at the “site” level. Primarily Scope 1 data.
  • Widely available software with many suppliers and different levels of sophistication.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t monitor the source of the energy consumed and its related emissions. No visibility on market instruments used - such as PPA’s or renewable energy certificates.
  • Data output consistency can be difficult, even more if a company’s facilities use different EMS software.
  • EMS usually collect consumption data automatically through additional hardware devices that requires installation, set-up and maintenance or from manual invoice readings 

2. Sustainability Software

Sustainability software has emerged in recent years due the growing number of businesses reporting on their sustainability. The collection and analysis of data covering all aspects of sustainability in businesses is challenging. This can be eased by the use of sustainability software. Typically, the primary function of this software is to collate emissions data that can be easily transferred to a sustainability report for water, waste, energy, etc, but also manage social impact, wellbeing, and inclusive workplace.

Sustainability reporting softwares are usually not specialised in energy and, consequently, they have less integrations for automated data sourcing. This results in greater reliance on manual data entry, usually carried out by different operators from different countries, which may be a source of errors. This low level of automation is also usually correlated with low granularity of the data.  

Primary Function: Managing environmental compliance and emissions reporting.

Pros:

  • Eases the administrative burden of environmental and sustainability reporting.
  • Generally covers all areas of sustainability in businesses at a high-level – energy, water, waste etc.

Cons:

  • Can rely heavily on manual entry of energy data – increasing the risk of reporting errors.
  • Not exclusively tailored for energy - therefore, no access to renewable energy certificates to back renewable energy claims and no near real-time carbon emission calculation for 24/7 *RES-E matching. (*RES-E = Electricity from Renewable Energy Sources)
  • No visibility on procurement portfolio and EAC origins (just aggregated annual data) -  PPA’s or energy attribute certificates will require manual collection and entry. 

3. Renewable Energy Monitoring Software

Renewable energy reporting has seen significant interest in recent years, given its importance within sustainability reporting. Corporate renewable energy purchasing has become a benchmark for companies when demonstrating their commitment to the fight against climate change. With 75% of CO2 emitted through the combustion of fuels, buying renewable energy represents a highly impactful contribution to mitigating the effects of climate change. 

Renewable Energy Monitoring Softwares are a brand new category that allow companies to achieve a high-degree of credibility regarding their reported energy use; they are developed to enable a fast, reliable and precise overview on near real-time renewable energy data and the related emissions. The software will be more renewable-specific giving more granular information on the specific types of renewable energy used e.g. Energy Attribute Certificates (EACs or GOs, REC, REGOs, etc.), PPA’s, or green supply tariffs. With a specific focus on renewable energy, this software typically won’t capture non-energy information for reporting purposes.  

Primary Function: Collect and monitor the source of the energy and its related emissions. Includes tracking the time-synchronicity of  renewable energy production and consumption data to increase credibility in renewable energy disclosure. Both meter data, prices and market instruments, such as EACs, may be collected by this software category. In fact, this kind of software is also an excellent tool for EACs portfolio management, useful to understand your situation - when and what you bought (to ensure quality and diversity amongst the sourcing plants), at what price, and ultimately if the certificates have been cancelled specifically for you already.

Pros:

  • Automates collection of energy consumption data from Data Hubs and collection of Energy Attribute Certificates from national registries.
  • Detailed and accurate monitoring of the source of renewable electricity from the RE plant: allows the required level of data granularity, specially for the monitoring of production/consumption´s time-synchronicity (24/7 RES-E matching). 
  • May help to collect energy data from supply chain partners, serving as a EACs monitoring tool all along the supply chain. 

Cons:

  • Typically won’t have the capability for tracking and reporting non-electricity metrics, such as emissions from wastes and industrial processes.

 

Which software automates energy data collection?

Most energy data related to a business can be manually collected and reported on. However, manually collecting energy data is costly, time-consuming, and prone to human error. On top of that, data is not collected to be stored and forgotten; in fact, after its collection, data must be treated, analysed and shared to become useful within decision-making processes. All of these issues can be dealt with through the automation of energy data collection. 

However, each type of software will have different capabilities when it comes to automating data collection. We have tried to compare each software in the table below. We recognise that different providers will have different capabilities but this table tries to give a generic comparison between the three types.   

Content table to compare energy software
*Energy intended as electricity.

Which software should I be using for energy management and reporting?

Each software has its own pros and cons. The best results can be achieved by using a combination of the three software types. In this way, the strengths of each software can be maximised to deliver an effective energy management and reporting solution. 

It's best to take an example of how this could work in practice; let’s say a sustainability manager needs to create an annual sustainability report representing 10 international sites. The objective will be to use automation as possible to cut out human errors and reduce costs and augment granularity.  

The three types of software could be used as follows: 

  1. EMS would be tracking the company’s consumption sites, assessing the overall energy efficiency inside the company.

  2.  It would be integrated via API with the Renewable Energy Monitoring software, which would then collect energy data from the site through the EMS, with the possibility to double-check them through the comparison with smart grid data automatically collected from the local Data Hub; in addition, it would automatically collect other energy market instruments such as EACs , through official registries, to back the company's renewable energy claims and have a clear overview on the renewable energy procurement strategy.

  3. This data from the renewable energy monitoring software would then be used as an input for the sustainability reporting software, in addition to non-energy data such as waste which will come from other parts of the business. The sustainability manager will then be able to create a sustainability report that is based on granular and highly reliable energy data. 

Check out this article for more in-depth insight on this topic - How to Create A Sustainability Report of Your Renewable Energy.

Flexidao’s software solution ticks the majority of the boxes for being categorised as a Renewable Energy Monitoring software;  it connects all kinds of electricity consumers to the new renewable, distributed and smart electrical grid to achieve a true, provable carbon-free electricity consumption, every hour of the day and every day of the year.
FlexiDAO, thanks to its integrability, allows corporate energy buyers to automate the collection of renewable energy data from many different sources: from an EMS software for Scope 1 data, energy certificate registries for Scope 2 data, and national energy and emissions databases.

Our solution is for every company that aims to strongly reduce or eliminate its energy-related carbon footprint.


Connect with our team to discover how we are changing the world of renewable energy procurement and easing the job of its main actors.


Author

ALVARO RAMIRO GUZMÁN

Alvaro Guzmán, Business Development and Innovation Manager at FlexiDAO, is an expert in renewable energy procurement. He is a passionate business professional with strong experience in building relationships and consulting.
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Published
September 21, 2021
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