Assigning costs for energy management
Industrial processes incur considerable energy costs, which are usually apportioned as a lump sum either to the production units or at a production site. Energy cost management has been difficult up to now, because specific knowledge of the cost of each energy and supply service within an enterprise has not been easy to obtain.
However, because of competition and the need for transparency, it is important to separate costs and allocate them to individual parts of the business. This can be achieved using process cost management, a business methodology which allocates costs to certain products and services. However, it requires a synchronous determination of the energy consumption (that is, where, when and to what extent energy is consumed).
We at Elster have developed a system called EuroTRACE, which allows these assessments to be made. The system is presently being tested by both manufacturers and utilities in Germany. It consists of a transponder, which is directly connected to a meter, and a data concentrator, and it can be installed without interrupting the gas, water or energy supply. Meters are read using automatic meter reading (AMR) technology.
As markets deregulate, AMR solutions become increasingly attractive, and even systems with one gas meter, where the meter is traditionally read on site only once per month, can be profitable for commercial and small industrial customers. There are also profitable applications for AMR within industrial enterprises.
Understanding energy costs can further reduce expenditure, as delivery costs can be reduced through know-ledge of consumption within specific processes. This in turn can lead to optimum delivery contracts being negotiated with the power supply utility. Understanding energy costs is especially important in periods characterised by stagnating or even shrinking markets and increasing international competition. For example, using the analysis of consumption data, any unnecessary consumption of natural gas or compressed air (the price of compressed air and natural gas is almost the same) can be identified and eliminated faster than before.
To measure consumption synchronously across the enterprise, the basic infrastructure for the automated collection of meter readings must first be integrated into an existing IT environment. The required AMR facilities, which can be based on wireless remote data transmissions, can be installed later. This makes it possible to bridge even large distances within a building or in a production hall without any cable installations. (See figure 1).
This is particularly interesting because the meters to be read must not be aggregated locally or by media. Electricity meters are mostly installed in junction boxes or cabinets, while gas, compressed air or water meters are mounted in the piping system at different sites and heights. One solution would consist of meters that are equipped with bus systems. However, it would require a large amount of time, work and costs to achieve this, and the cost/benefit ratio would be unacceptably high.
It is easiest to collect the data from the various meters within a central concentrator device that processes the respective data and saves it in a storage sub-system. The collected histories (consumption profiles) can be read by remote operation or be automatically transferred on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The data then provides a well-founded basis for evaluations, consumption statistics, cost analyses and further planning. Cost savings in the area of supply services can thus be realised. (See figure 2).
Even the time from the reading operation to the generation of the invoice by the energy supply company is reduced and simplified, which in turn reduces administrative costs. All in all the automated remote reading system offers an innovative path to transparent details of costs and hence to effective cost savings for all participants.