[This is Part#4 of the Energy Management Series. You may access Part#1 here, Part#2 here and Part#3 here.]

Energy management is one of the key sustainable survival approaches. The purpose of having an energy management system is:

  • To reduce the cost of energy
  • To reduce carbon footprints
  • Reducing the energy risk

The energy management systems have broadly of two aspects to be addressed, viz. a policy and a solution. The policy is something like ISO 50001, and the solution is something like having a combination of hardware and software that collects, records, analyses, and controls the energy consumption. Ideally, both, policy and solution do go hand-in-hand. Without a policy, the solution doesn’t lead to a fruitful optimization; and on the other side without a solution, the policy fails to achieve its objectives and targets (O&T).

Energy Management Solution is nothing but essentially a “Building Management System (BMS)” or “Building Automation System (BAS)”. BMS/BAS is primarily about real-time control, it is the steering control for the operating system. The systems are not built for dealing with historical data or reporting. BMS/BAS only allow building teams to automate control, without giving insight into how much building systems should be adjusted and why. On the policy front, Energy Management System (EMS) is primarily a reporting and decision support tool. It is a dashboard for energy data and can track trends and help decision makers. Walking a step ahead, there is also a term called “Energy Information System (EIS)”. Energy information systems (EIS) are being used to supplement the energy monitoring and tracking of EMS with functions including weather information, pricing structures, and more sophisticated real-time energy usage data.

To make the understanding easier – EMS is a dashboard of a plan where the pilot can see the status, backed by a policy or framework; whereas BMS is like the rudder or the throttle lever or the control wheel. What all is controlled or managed by the BMS can be viewed or experienced on EMS. BMS gets you the data, and EMS empowers you to make the decisions on the data being brought by the BMS. In India, often industry use BMS and EMS interchangeably. Considering the market demand BMS providers integrated the functionalities of the EMS with that of BMS and vice-e-versa. And largely an element of policy framework is grossly missing, especially for the organizations baring leading corporate houses such as Aditya Birla, Reliance, Tata, TVS, Mahindra, etc.

Here in India, EMS was introduced by Schneider in early ’10. Though adoption of the system was not so strong, it took a tremendous amount of efforts in convincing the users to go for such system. Schneider found only corporate houses with decent CapEx (allotted Capital Expenditure) would go for it. Gradually a lot of such companies like L&T, Elmeasure, Secure, Siemens, etc entered the competition, followed by the start-ups like Ecolibrium Energy, Zenatics, etc. When Schneider was a perceived leader in the EMS segment, Honeywell emerged as a leading BMS solution provider. Progressively, L&T, Elmeasure, Secure, Siemens, etc. realized the limitations on market capturing against their other bigger verticals and technologically limited offerings. If we look at today’s landscape, grossly the EMS/BMS market is perceived as a common market. Buyers weight them as one and the same; in fact, the term “BMS” is getting eroded day by day, and EMS is getting wider acceptance as a holistic energy management system. Also, the technological advancements towards cloud computing and cheaper data communication options made the cloud based energy management more attractive proposition; where companies like Ecolibrium Energy and Zenatics are emerging well. Traditional players, except Schneider, stopped focusing on the EMS segment and now with very limited players and very innovative propositions – buyers have more functionalities and customization options.

BMS/BAS is basically consisting of

  • Energy Meters
  • Sensors (Temperature, Pressure, Flow, BTU meter, counters, PLC, etc.)
  • Analog to Digital Converters
  • RS-485 cable
  • Network Switches
  • Server (housing the software, embedded with communication protocol such as BACnet, Modbus, etc.)

Across the plant, all the assets (worth being taken under monitoring) are looped in using RS-485 cable or Ethernet cable. Such cables fed data to the Network Switches which in turn send the data to the central server, housed suitably in the industry premise itself. Using this mechanism data from all the sensors and meters are collected and stored into this central server. The Central server runs a software that decodes such communicated data and displays the same to the users as per their configuration. Such displays could be in the form of various graphs, charts, tables, reports, alarms, etc. Such BMS/BAS comes with following limitations:

  • Central server maintenance & software up gradation
  • Difficult to scale up the network
    • One requires configuring the software to add or change any sensor details, which is offered by the solution provider on chargeable basis
  • Comparison of the indices across plant is not possible as one plant has its own server and that does not communicate with any other server
  • Once the solution is purchased any customization in graphs, parameters, benchmarking, report formats, alerts, etc is not possible. User has to manage with what was designed and configured at the time of commissioning
Cloud Hosted EMS
Image by essenceofengineering.wordpress.com

Advancement in technology has removed all aforesaid barriers and has empowered users greatly. The advent of the cloud computing invited a lot of players to introduce Industrial Automation on the cloud server. The cloud based solution eliminates broadly two things – RS-485 cable network and a central server, however, adds on to either SIM card or Wi-Fi for data communication. Rest of the elements remained same. And in a true sense, they became a solid combination of BMS and EMS. Thus, we can term them true EMS.

Over and above these, it offered below advantages:

  • No server maintenance and software up gradation as entire server-software is managed by the solution provider over cloud
  • Incredibly great scalability
    • Starting with a few meters, user can scale it up to any number of monitoring nodes without any software hick-ups
  • Access to a variety of tools to compare, monitor, track, benchmark and analyze the energy data
  • Highly customized reports, graphs, displays, etc
Image by essenceofengineering.wordpress.com

Cloud based EMS offered not only superior advantages in terms of just scalability, maintenance, and reconfigurability; but also pushed the solution providers to offer advanced analytics and algorithm driven actionable inputs to the users. Cloud based EMS made it possible to use the historical data in a true sense of analysis, benchmarking and behavior comparison. Charting policy framework became easier for the industries having such historical data and flexibility of visualization and reporting.

We shall talk about hardware in our subsequent post on Energy Management.