Energy Management

Track energy costs like you would operating costs

Sheila Kennedy says significant savings can result from proactively aggregating, monitoring, and analyzing energy data.

By Sheila Kennedy

With the right tools, energy costs can be tracked and managed like other operating costs would. Significant savings can result from proactively aggregating, monitoring, and analyzing energy data. New and improved software and technologies are available to accomplish this goal.

Data collection and integration

Collecting energy data without using wires reduces installation and maintenance costs and extends the value of energy monitoring initiatives. The Watt-Link from Lord MicroStrain Sensing Systems is a sensor node for wirelessly monitoring energy and power. Data can be aggregated even in harsh operating environments and synchronized with the company’s SensorCloud remote condition monitoring solutions.

“Watt-Link’s parasitically powered lossless wireless communication gives operators a reliable and affordable tool to research and monitor power consumption, manufacturing efficiency, and machine health,” says Rich Ketcham, senior engineer at Lord MicroStrain. “Its ability to wirelessly provide highly accurate remote energy monitoring and reporting via any Web-connected device sets it apart from more costly hardwired technologies.”

Energy-intensive industries must gather and analyze energy and production data from multiple sources in order to optimize performance. To simplify this process, Schneider Electric introduced StruxureWare for mining, minerals, and metals, which integrates an operation’s process control, operations management, and energy management. StruxureWare solutions are also available for the water, healthcare, and food and beverage industries.

“Most of the mining and metals operations have literally hundreds of devices, equipment, and software creating a huge amount of data. The concept behind StruxureWare is to gather that data, unify and integrate those different disciplines, and derive meaning to help improve process and business decisions,” says Fabio Mielli, U.S. mining, minerals, and metals segment manager for Schneider Electric.

Web-based monitoring

Browser-based monitoring tools are growing in popularity. The latest generation of the Holmes AutoPilot Energy Monitoring System is the cloud-based AutoPilot Meter Module 4.0. The self-contained module is offered in kits consisting of hardware, software, and comprehensive analytics for monitoring up to four meters. All utility applications, such as air compressors, chillers, boilers, cooling towers, and HVAC units, are supported, and custom kits are also available.

“A single module can monitor multiple utility meters or be part of a comprehensive total facility or multiple facility energy monitoring system,” says Bill Holmes, principal at Holmes AutoPilot. “The Meter Module is available for a low monthly lease fee with no upfront cost or contract, and all data is available 24/7 from any Web connection.”

EcoWebServer III from Mitsubishi Electric Automation is a new Web-based energy data management solution. It allows organizations to monitor and manage energy by department, building, or floor, as well as by application, factory process, or equipment, and correlate energy with production.

“EcoWebServer III has off-the-shelf features for trending energy data over time, which is displayed in hourly, daily, and monthly bar graphs in a Web browser environment. It provides energy allocation of all energy assets; energy comparison for single assets over different time ranges or multiple assets for a single time range; equipment efficiency; and email notification capabilities,” says Ghulam Khan, senior automation solutions engineer for Mitsubishi Electric Automation.

Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics.Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at

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Reporting and analytics

Monitoring capabilities and outcomes are continuously improving. The latest release of Wonderware Corporate Energy Management, version 2012 R2, includes a Web application to view and edit meter values and energy rates. It also enables virtual meter hierarchies, archival and purging of historical energy usage data, and enhanced analytics.

“While many manufacturing and industrial operations view energy consumption monthly, making it difficult to understand exactly how much and where energy was consumed, Corporate Energy Management software presents that information immediately, potentially saving millions of dollars annually for large operations,” says Christian-Marc Pouyez, product manager for Wonderware Corporate Energy Management software at Invensys.

GE Intelligent Platforms recently announced upgrades to its Proficy Manufacturing software solutions. “The Proficy software suite efficiently manages and achieves peak performance with a unified, easy-to-configure plant model that automatically generates intelligent KPIs and monitors performance of the plant, including energy usage,” says Don Busiek, general manager for manufacturing software at GE Intelligent Platforms.

The customer-driven software updates increase visibility across the business and plant floor. “Proficy leverages our understanding of asset utilization, uptime, speeds, yields, and other performance parameters to help manufacturers make real-time adjustments to keep operations running smoothly, productively, and profitably,” adds Busiek.

Read Sheila Kennedy's monthly column, Technology Toolbox.