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How Utility Bill Data Can Save You Money—Part 4


In recent blogs, we’ve been looking at ways your utility bill data can save you money.

Today we will focus on the unique opportunities available to large organizations—opportunities that actually grow in size/potential with the size of the organization.

Maintaining Your Portfolio

Larger organizations face a surprising energy management challenge—simply maintaining an accurate record of utility accounts and vendors. When you receive hundreds of utility bills every month, it becomes a challenge just to keep up with your portfolio. This is particularly true of organizations that have a more dynamic or unstable geography. They open a new facility one day, and close another one tomorrow. Offices shift locations to accommodate emerging markets. Expansion alters the energy situation. It can be a lot to manage.

The management problem can be exacerbated by the use of multiple management systems. Perhaps different departments are using different processes. And data gets lost. Here are two examples.

The Big City

Our first savings example involves one of the top ten populated cities in the U.S. They had a building that they wished to sell, so they moved out of the building. However, the accounting department kept receiving monthly bills. Now the accounting people didn’t know that the building was supposed to be vacant. So by the time the City actually got around to selling this building, they noticed that they had been incurring significant electricity costs.

They received monthly bills. And once they began reviewing and auditing those bills using energy management software, they noticed that these large monthly bills were exactly the same each month. In fact, the cost had actually been the same on each bill from before the building went vacant.

So they sent a city manager to the site, and they discovered that a fence had been erected around the vacant building. Of course, this prevented the utility company meter reader from accessing the meter. So the utility just kept sending estimated bills.

This story had a happy ending for the city government, though. Since they were able to prove that the building was vacant, and they were able to get a current meter read from the functioning electric meter, they were able to receive a refund for all of those estimated bills that had been paid. Those savings added up to more than $100,000.

An Airport Audit

Here is another example of a large city government that manages the airport in the city. Once they had organized their energy data using energy management software, they performed a simple review of all of their utility accounts for the airport They started by sorted the accounts from the highest to the lowest use.

One of the facility managers noticed a very high electricity bill associated with a location used by one of the large freight companies.  Now this was a part of the airport that the City wasn’t even operating. Upon closer investigation, they realized that they had been paying this bill for the freight company to the tune of nearly a million dollars a year!

So you can see that just knowing what you manage—understanding your portfolio—is very, very important.

The Challenge

If you think your organization’s size/growth may have opened up savings opportunities, here’s an exercise for you to consider:

  1. Write down the exact number of buildings that you manage.
  2. Write down the exact number of utility vendors you have.
  3. Write down the exact number of utility accounts.

Now determine an accurate method to verify that your answers are correct.

It seems simple, but in many cases, it’s not. And if you are trying to use Excel to manage an extensive property portfolio, and accounting is just paying the bills, you might just discover some significant savings.