George Mason University had begun its journey into computerized utility bill tracking in the 1990s, but its software solution, Faser Energy Accounting®, had been acquired by Enron®. After the Enron bankruptcy scandal, the university needed to reboot its energy management program.
GMU’s Energy Manager, Patrick Buchanan, summarized the situation as follows:
“In 2006 we had no utility software program to track our utility costs. Utility invoices were filed by Facility in a filing cabinet. Every year the files were boxed up and put in storage. A new FY file was created and invoices were filed away just like before … The first year I had to file the Energy Report for the Governor it took three days of collecting the information and entering into a spreadsheet.“
To track an energy program with a budget in excess of $14 million, GMU needed an energy management software upgrade to address a number of issues including:
GMU went with EnergyCAP. Once the new system was in place, the improvement was dramatic. With comprehensive historical energy data at his fingertips, Buchanan was able to demonstrate longstanding sewer overcharges for submetered water use for irrigation and pools. The result? A check for $400,000 from the local water utility.
Access to the meter data also revealed unusual patterns of water use. As it turned out, two cooling towers on facilities with chillers were continually overflowing. Buchanan’s team was able to catch the problem using billing data.
Another catch was made when a building came online at a remote site. After the utility billing data had been entered into EnergyCAP, it became apparent that a water deduction meter had not been installed at the facility. This facility had its own chiller plant and an irrigation system, so there was ample opportunity for a sizable sewer deduction.
In addition to energy and cost savings, Buchanan also realized time savings. He discovered that with a comprehensive utility database, he was able to generate his annual energy report in 30 minutes rather than three days.
An unanticipated benefit of the University’s EnergyCAP reboot has been the automation of ENERGY STAR data submittal. This enables Buchanan to track and compare the performance of many of his buildings with national norms. EnergyCAP submits the monthly building data automatically, so there is no need for Buchanan to spend additional time entering utility bill data into the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.