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5 Obstacles to Conquer in Energy Management

iStock_000013389344SmallObstacles can either break you or make you better. Take Miami-Dade County, for instance.

Home to 2.5 million residents, the County’s building portfolio—more than 1,500 facilities—is complex and constantly changing. It includes the County’s top two sources of revenue, the Miami International Airport and PortMiami. Other public service facilities under active energy management include 70 fire stations, 100 parks, 43 libraries, and many others.

The County was facing five large obstacles in their energy management program. Maybe you can relate to some of them. 

1: Nonstandard Utility Bill Process

The County pays out $100 million every year in electricity expenses, yet until very recently they did not have a streamlined and homogenous process for dealing with the thousands of electricity invoices received every month. Every department dealt with electricity bills in a different way, and bills were sent for payment and analysis to three different accounting systems and an energy reporting system.

2: Outdated and Insufficient System

Since the early 1980s, the County had been tracking a portion of the utility bills with a legacy in-house Energy Management System (ERS). However, the ERS was not capable of countywide utility management. As a result, accounts not processed via ERS required staff to manually enter data into the different financial systems the County had in place, and all bill auditing was done manually.

3: Fumbling Estimated Bills

One of the biggest obstacles was the lack of standard procedures for handling estimated bills. “Under the old system, estimated bills were paid as if they were accurate bills. Later, corrected bills were sent and these invoices were misunderstood and often lost,” said Dan Coogan, Energy Management Analyst for the County.

The old software, an in-house developed program that was a step behind contemporary billing software products, would simply pay the estimated bill. If the actual bill was lower, Florida Power and Light would let credits accrue. But if the actual bill was higher, the old system rejected corrective payments as duplicates. For a long time—longer than Florida Power & Light keeps payment data—unpaid balances rolled forward into late payment charges while credits accumulated.

4: Account Ownership Confusion

Miami-Dade also had a leasing problem. Several different people were in charge of setting up leases from outside vendors for different departments. To complicate matters, every lease was a little different from others (some included electricity in the rent, some did not), and it was difficult to keep track of which leases Miami-Dade was still paying utilities for.

5: Changing Human Behavior

But perhaps the biggest challenge was the human element. For the program to change, more than 200 employees across 24 County departments would have to be trained, many with jobs that had nothing to do with energy management. And for that to happen, they needed to understand how their actions and decisions affected the big picture of Miami-Dade’s electricity consumption.

Did Miami-Dade County overcome their obstacles? Why yes, with blazing colors, and now they’re saving $2 million per year.

How will conquering your obstacles make you better?