Traditional metering options aren’t all equal and neither are IoT technologies

Stock image ex Canva for Wattwatchers blog post series on the built environment

In a series of articles (this is Article 3), also available on request as an eBook, Wattwatchers explores the challenges and opportunities building owners, managers and installers face with electricity metering and monitoring for achieving and maintaining Net Zero, ESG and sustainability trajectories for the built environment.

ARTICLE 3: Built Environment Net Zero Series

Done well, modern wireless IoT technologies can simplify electricity monitoring, lower costs  and make data much more usable and valuable.

Buyer beware, however, because the reality is that not all IoT technologies have great data quality, with many plagued by data gaps, unreliable communications and the need to set-up device management systems.

So, make sure you understand what you need before you buy, and choose carefully.

Best-in-class technology will have data quality front-of-mind, and will incorporate ‘smart design’ to simplify the deployment of electricity metering in new-build and retrofit.

It helps to have the in-built flexibility to both meet basic compliance, such as for NCC Section J8/9 requirements, while also enabling beyond-compliance upgrades to Green Star performance levels and similar sustainability requirements.

Underlying core requirements should include:

  • Real-time and historic dashboards to manage electricity (and water and carbon) with target tracking
  • Rapid roll-out: no communications cabling and conduit required
  • Lower-cost through use of more flexible solutions
  • Push reports to tenants and other stakeholders
  • Analytics that detect site issues and opportunities. Prioritised notifications, so you know where to focus
  • Future-proof SaaS (with cloud-based, integrated real-time data, and AI + IoT platform technology that makes sure you always have the latest version)
  • Complete interoperability – established data connections to common portfolio reporting platforms used in property (avoid legacy integration issues).
  • No onsite computers, saving on space and cost, and delivering greater performance

A mobile app will help with tenant engagement 

Leading property companies are looking for ways to do more for their tenants in energy. 

A mobile app designed for non-technical users will help, and should enable users to see site load and solar generation (where relevant) in real-time, and to examine historical periods and trends with ease. 

If users are motivated to manage energy, they should be able to set a budget and track against it day-to-day, and be alerted if they go off-track, rather than have to wait for a month to find out from their next power bill.

Interoperability can be enabled via the cloud

Best-in-class solutions will make data available via an Applications Programming Interface (API) in real-time for use in the platforms in your business use cases. 

This allows connections to be established into portfolio sustainability reporting and building performance analytics leaders.

Once data feeds are established, the data flows automatically, thus eliminating the need for manual effort to get complete and accurate data.

It doesn’t matter which site or country the device is located in – data is accessed in the same way by API – enabling users to make the most of software scalability.

Great data quality and transmission will enable your progress-tracking and public disclosures

For energy data-of-record purposes, monitoring should be ‘Class 1’ (+/-1% accurate), which is the same as a utility meter.

To be timely, as well as accurate, metering/monitoring needs reliable connectivity with the Cloud.

Best-in-class technology solutions will use 4G cellular, ideally with built-in choice of signals by using multi-carrier SIMs (devices will automatically select the best network for the location based on signal quality at the time, and can automatically switch to a different carrier if things change). 

There are communications interruptions in the real-world, and cellular communications need to be handled accordingly.

This should include internal logging capacity within each metering/monitoring device, with automatic ‘catch up’ of device-held data with the Cloud server once any carrier signal outages are resolved.

At fleet management level, any devices that have gone offline should be visible immediately, so that appropriate action can be taken to remediate and maintain data quality.

Get more from your investment – cost effective technology that enables better use of the data

Compact wireless solutions can be up to 70% less than traditional solutions, and can be commercially viable at small numbers of devices per site – for example when monitoring solar or tenant loads.

By combining functions into a single device, and eliminating the need for hubs, communications cables, conduits and all of the associated labour, best-in-class technology helps you get more data into the hands of your business for decision-making.

As an example, users may want to monitor any solar system, electric vehicle chargers or even individual efficiency upgrade projects so that they know exactly how they perform.

Drill into detail to re-validate after installation

If users ever suspect the validity of data from a new-technology device, they can quickly perform some initial remote investigations from their desktops and examine phase-level detail, including seeing the CT settings applied. 

CT settings can be cross-checked against commissioning documents of installation photos to see if they are set correctly. 

This first sense-check happens from the comfort of a desk and can check off the most common issues for incorrect meter reads, such as reversed CT’s, incorrect phasing and wrong CT size set, with no costly truck rolls required.

Best-in-class devices continually self check, and you’ll be alerted to any issues.

James Clements is Director Net Zero Property with Wattwatchers.