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Expert Advice

How Real-Time Data Is Redefining Energy Audits

Published February 9, 2024
Sr. Carbon Sustainability Analyst
By Isabelle Wilhelm-Muñiz Sr. Carbon Sustainability Analyst
imagery for energy audits

The majority of commercial and institutional buildings lack readily available feedback on energy performance. When feedback is necessary, typically an energy audit is conducted. This service, performed by a building engineer, assesses a building's energy usage and performance through a thorough inspection, evaluation, and identification of potential areas for energy reduction or efficiency improvement. Energy audits serve diverse purposes, such as benchmarking building performance, analyzing current efficiency, proposing energy reduction measures, and, in specific jurisdictions, fulfilling compliance requirements. Despite the various applications for understanding a building's energy consumption and avenues for reduction, the energy audit has remained the primary tool for these purposes.

However, energy audits are notably labor-intensive, involving physical walkthroughs, extensive manual data collection, and a comprehensive equipment inventory. Typically, the process requires gathering and analyzing at least one year of utility bills, and for seasonality and benchmarking, multiple years' worth of bills may be necessary. This manual collection, organization, analysis, and reporting process is not only costly and time-consuming but also conducted with objectives that demand current and actionable data, thereby diminishing the effectiveness of the results.

Key issues associated with energy audits:

Time Intensive: Energy audits can take anywhere from 3 to 9 months to complete and deliver, typically based on the prior year's values.

Costly: The expenses for energy audits can range from $10,000 to $50,000 per building.

Inaccuracy: Energy audits, including their recommended actions and projected cost savings, are known to be inconsistent. Various studies have reported significant disparities in recommendations and cost projections from different audits for the same building.

Outdated: Once the audit is complete, it is typically based on outdated data, which may hinder the relevance and effectiveness of the audit's findings and recommendations.

NZero’s Approach to Energy Audits

 At NZero, we recognize the challenges faced by our customers across industries when dealing with energy audits. Many are uncertain about how to best utilize audits that fail to consider recent changes, leaving them unsure on the most effective course of action. Moreover, traditional energy audits often focus solely on energy without adequately addressing the aspect of assessing the impact of recommended measures on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and how those may align with a business strategy.

In response to these challenges, NZero supports customers with an innovative approach to achieving energy audit results through our carbon management software services. By leveraging automated utility data collection, continuous GHG emissions monitoring, and building information already available on our customers' platform, NZero offers a streamlined solution that produces results comparable to Level 1 and 2 energy audits.

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NZero simplifies the evaluation process, integrating advanced analytics for cost-effective assessments. This enables decision makers to strategically allocate resources for implementing impactful changes identified in the audit, rather than on the audit itself. Furthermore, our automated scenario modeling tool tailors forecasts for energy and emissions reduction measures to the specific operational characteristics of each building, ensuring customized recommendations based on emission reduction goals, budget constraints, and timeline considerations. 

This approach provides decision makers with the detailed information needed to make informed building retrofit and budget allocation decisions, unburdened by the constraints of traditional audit methods.

Let’s examine the NZero software-based energy audit approach. A public sector entity, tasked with utilizing outdated energy audit results for building retrofit recommendations, sought NZero’s assistance for accurate and technical recommendations.

Unlike traditional energy audits, which typically rely on data from the prior year, the NZero approach stands out by utilizing ongoing energy data. This ensures accuracy and relevance even as new building projects are implemented and operational changes are made. The public sector entity was interested in a dynamic audit that could be utilized to make informed decisions, maximizing cost, energy, and emission savings within their building portfolio.

NZero employed its dynamic software-based energy audit approach to assist this public sector entity. By utilizing real-time energy & GHG emission data, offering a detailed breakdown of 24/7 GHG emission data at the site level, the organization had access to information needed to make informed decisions based on actual performance data. This report includes actionable insights through:

Energy Use Intensity Study: Examines a building's resource consumption, providing detailed insights into usage patterns based on factors such as seasons and occupancy. Identifies performance hotspots within the portfolio and offers feedback on areas for potential improvement.

benchmark report

Benchmark Report: Assesses resource consumption in a building by comparing it to relevant factors such as climate zone, building type, vintage, and occupancy, leveraging data from leading building databases.

Weather Normalization Analysis: Thorough examination of how weather conditions influence energy consumption patterns, enabling the identification of seasonal variations' root causes and the removal of weather as a contributing factor.

Tailored Emission & Energy Recommendations: Customized and detailed energy and emission reduction measures for each building, aligning with the client's budget, timeline, and sustainability objectives.

Through NZero’s solution, the public sector organization not only addressed the constraints of outdated audits but also obtained actionable insights into their buildings. Armed with valuable information, they were able to efficiently prioritize and allocate resources across their extensive portfolio.

Ready to transform your approach to energy efficiency? Engage with NZero to learn more about our product offerings and how our innovative solutions can revolutionize your organization's sustainability journey. Embrace the future of energy audits with NZero—a partner committed to maximizing your cost, energy, and emission savings.

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