They spent millions buying what they thought were energy management systems for 175 buildings

July 2, 2014

The State Director of Energy Conservation spent millions of dollars buying  what he was told were Energy Management Systems for 175 buildings. But they didn't monitor a single meter. Surprise! They were only Temperature Controls Systems.

Holmes: Did I ever tell you Watson about my meeting with the Director of Energy Conservation and his chief engineer for one of the largest States in the country?

Watson: Not that I recall. But I take it you are about to and I am sure it will be just as fascinating as all of your other stories.

Holmes: I’ve never met a sarcastic dog before.

Watson: I’m waiting with dog breath.

Holmes: Obviously a smart guy, the Director had degrees in both engineering and law but was new to his job and the field of energy conservation. It seemed like a good time to talk to him about our approach, experience and results over the past 30 years.

We went to his office next door to the State Capital Building to meet with him.

Watson: That sounds pretty impressive. How many buildings was he in charge of?

Holmes: When we met with him he introduced us to his chief engineer and said they were responsible for energy management and conservation in 175 State buildings. After we finished our presentation, the Director said our method of using actual monitored data together with basic engineering problem-solving techniques was interesting. But he already had everything he needed; he was doing everything necessary to conserve energy in the State-owned buildings.

He was working with a major temperature controls company and spending millions to put Energy Management Systems in all of the State Buildings.

Watson: So he already had a very expensive solution for all of his buildings before he had a chance to determine what problems each had and what each one really needed?

Holmes: That’s the way a lot of people and companies operate in this field, the one size fits all method. They already have the solution regardless of your problem. It didn’t surprise me. But I had a trick question up my sleeve. I asked him, “how many utility meters are you monitoring?” I had a strong hunch what the answer would be.

The Director turned to his engineer who replied “I don’t believe we are monitoring any meters.”

Watson: The single most important points to monitor to save energy, and out of 175 buildings, they weren’t monitoring a single meter, not one? Even a mere Certified Energy Dog like me knows that you can’t manage energy if you don’t measure energy. I know the difference between a “Temperature Controls System” and an “Energy Management System” from our recent Blog, “Why Don’t Energy Management Systems Manage Energy?” Read the Blog

For all those millions of dollars, he wasn’t getting Energy Management Systems, he was getting Temperature Controls Systems.  

Holmes: My next questions were, “What about your reports? What do they look like? How do you track and verify savings? How do they compare with the ones of ours that we showed you?”

I knew what was coming next, it always does. I have heard it for years; “We will check with our Temperature Controls Company (the key word being controls) and let you know.”

Watson: What did his Temperature Controls Company say?

Holmes: Take a wild guess Watson.

Watson: His Temperature Controls Company told him they could provide all of the same reports as your monitoring system. I take it you’ve heard that before Holmes?

Holmes: Most of my career, but I have yet to see a single report.

Watson: So after the Director spends millions of dollars installing all of the control systems that were designed without bothering to define the specific problems in each facility, and he calls the controls company to check on the reports to see how much energy they have saved, what do you think he will hear?

Holmes:  The exact same thing one of my previous clients actually heard from the same Controls Company in a similar situation, “You know we have been trying to produce some reports for you but we can’t do it. It just isn’t possible with our system.

But rest assured, we are the experts and we are producing the maximum savings possible”.

Watson: So does the Director just say, “Thanks. That’s good enough for me.”

Holmes: What else can he say at that point after he has spent all of that money?  “Thank goodness; I would hate to hear that after I spent all of those millions of dollars I didn’t get what I needed.  It would make me look really foolish, like I didn’t understand basic problem solving and financial management.”

Tell us about your experiences, both good and bad with energy professionals, what has worked and what hasn't. Send us your comments, thoughts and suggestions on how to improve our profession so we can all continue to learn from each other. Thanks – Holmes & Watson.

Sponsored Recommendations

Reduce engineering time by 50%

March 28, 2024
Learn how smart value chain applications are made possible by moving from manually-intensive CAD-based drafting packages to modern CAE software.

Filter Monitoring with Rittal's Blue e Air Conditioner

March 28, 2024
Steve Sullivan, Training Supervisor for Rittal North America, provides an overview of the filter monitoring capabilities of the Blue e line of industrial air conditioners.

Limitations of MERV Ratings for Dust Collector Filters

Feb. 23, 2024
It can be complicated and confusing to select the safest and most efficient dust collector filters for your facility. For the HVAC industry, MERV ratings are king. But MERV ratings...

The Importance of Air-To-Cloth Ratio when Selecting Dust Collector Filters

Feb. 23, 2024
Selecting the right filter cartridges for your application can be complicated. There are a lot of things to evaluate and air-to-cloth ratio. When your filters ...