It Takes A Village

by Katie Lee

Top 5 tips for a successful energy management solution implementation for retail chains.

By Jon Rabinowitz

Retail chain operations depend on energy and their profitability is contingent upon energy management. Retail chains are unlike other types of businesses: Their margins are slim, so properly managing energy and operations is fundamental to increasing profits. For retail chains, energy is a basic necessity and energy management is a profitable opportunity; therefore, successful implementation of an energy management solution is essential to bottom line returns.

Having implemented energy management solutions for restaurant chains, grocery stores, banking branches, multi-site merchandise retailers, we have developed five tips that, when adhered to, will ensure a successful implementation of your energy management solution.

Tip #1: Get granular data and holistic insights

Retail chains operate on low margins, so they must achieve greater energy efficiency and lower operational costs. However, by definition, they have multiple locations, systems and devices to analyze. To take advantage of energy efficiency opportunities, data must be gathered at a device level, but decisions must be made from comprehensive knowledge.

When you implement your energy management solution, take the approach of the telecommunications industry. A mobile network provider, for example, gives usage data broken down by device, usage type, date and hours.

When you analyze your energy consumption, you need this kind of granularity: you must know how much energy is consumed by each device at each location for every timeframe.

The value of understanding energy data cannot be underestimated. Energy data analysis reveals patterns and trends, and delivers actionable intelligence insights about individual electric devices. Assets can then be managed more efficiently in real time.

Operating a multi-site chain means that this level of circuit-level granularity will create a massive amount of data. While it is powerful to have the granularity, you also need to have holistic insights about your entire operation.

Real-time, actionable, valuable global insights about your entire operation, derived from device-level data, enable you to make intelligent decisions that affect real energy consumption changes.

Data must be gathered at a device level, but decisions must be made from comprehensive knowledge.

Tip #2: Synergize between systems

There are many elements to successfully operate a retail chain and there are many systems that manage these elements. In implementing an energy management system, you are not aiming to replace these systems, but rather synergize with them for a holistic approach that generates greater value.

It is important to integrate your device level EMS with existing systems like: utility bill management, BMS/BAS, HVAC and lighting controls, security, financial systems, incentives and recognition.

Often retail chains think that because they have a state-of-the-art BMS, they have all of the information they need. In truth, a BMS can be overridden and it doesn’t account for real-time activity. It is the synergy between a BMS to control systems and an EMS to monitor systems that enables insights that lead to energy efficiency.

Tip #3: Set efficiency targets based on real data

We have reached a certain tipping point in the corporate American energy consumption landscape. Over 65% are setting goals for energy savings. In and of itself, this is a milestone to be celebrated. For a retail chain to declare that it wants to reduce its consumption (or increase its profits) by 10% is nice. However, without veritable data, these “goals” are just pipe dreams.

Every project needs a goal. To set attainable energy efficiency targets, you need to understand your current consumption and recognize the major problem-makers. When you have the right knowledge, you can focus on the devices and systems that will save you the most energy with the least allocation of resources.

Tip #4: Let chain-wide benchmarks guide retrofitting priorities

Energy efficiency is a big undertaking. Energy efficiency across multiple sites can be daunting. Discovering that you need to retrofit multiple devices and systems at multiple locations can be overwhelming.

There is no need to be frustrated by the considerable retrofitting projects ahead. Your energy management solution gives you the data you need to prioritize your tasks and allocate your resources. A best practice is to benchmark the top 20% and bottom 20% of your locations. Also, consider that the best ROI may be concentrated in geographies with strong utility incentives or extreme climates. Benchmark each location against its own past performance.

The synergy between a BMS and an EMS enables insights that lead to energy efficiency.

Focus on the systems that will save you the most energy with the least allocation of resources.

Prioritizing preventive actions across multiple devices and multiple sites is easily done by benchmarking device data that is compared against industry standards and similar systems. Data can also be compared to other sites within the chain. These intelligence insights are provided within the energy management solution.

Implementing an EMS allows you to not only say “location A is using 30% more energy than location B,” or “location C increased their consumption 42% over last year,” but to also pinpoint the source of the problem and provide a suggested course of action like “location A’s HVAC system needlessly runs all night” or “last week, settings at location C were updated to run both cooling and heating systems concurrently.”

Tip #5: It takes a village

Tactical energy directors cannot do it on their own. Strategic C-suites cannot do it on their own. To affect real change, you must educate and empower the people of your chain. Provide management the visibility into energy data to show that efficiency is achievable, controllable and profitable.

With management enrolled in the possibility of energy efficiencies throughout the chain, they can enforce more effective organizational behavior and get the entire team involved.

Conclusion: Achieving Energy Efficiency

Energy may power your retail chain; but it is successful energy management that can empower your enterprise.

• Your chain needs holistic decisions based on granular device-level data.

• Your systems need to synergize to achieve a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

• You cannot count on random dreams. You need targets based on real data.

• And to achieve those targets, you must prioritize based on real benchmarks.

• You must involve management so that they can engage the entire team.

To sum it up is to say simply that selecting the right technology is important; but the people and the processes are equally important in achieving energy efficiency.


Build a Better Case for an Energy Management Solution.


— Jon Rabinowitz is senior director of marketing at Panoramic Power, a leading provider of circuit level energy management solutions, enabling businesses (including retailers) to optimize their energy consumption, improve operational efficiency and generate income through load response programs. Email the author at [email protected].

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