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Why Utility Data Is the First Step in Your Sustainability Strategy

This eBook will discuss why access to accurate utility bill data is a critical first step to any organization’s sustainability strategy.

From corporate America to the public sector, energy efficiency and sustainability is now a key imperative. Whether organizations are looking to meet government mandates or fulfill their own carbon reduction targets, sustainability teams are scrambling to reduce their emissions and are making significant investments into sustainable initiatives like carbon offset contracts, renewable power purchase agreements, and carbon capture technologies.

Although these investments are praiseworthy and look impressive in your annual sustainability report, there’s something you may be overlooking: The most significant opportunities for energy efficiency and carbon reduction reside in the very buildings you’re managing.

Organizations truly making an impact on carbon reduction start by understanding resource consumption in their buildings, execute data-driven energy efficiency improvements, and then layer on additional green initiatives. Buildings are complex, and understanding electric, gas, water, and waste data is no easy feat. We’ll let you in on a secret for simplifying this process: Utility Bills. Every building has them, and they contain the resource data Energy Managers and Sustainability Leaders need to drive carbon reduction programs.

Energy Optimization is Key to Sustainability

Concerns about the climate have led to organizations all over the world pledging to reach net-zero carbon emissions in accelerated timeframes. However, many people might not realize that energy optimization in buildings accounts for over 40% of the reduction in emissions needed by 2040.

Improving energy efficiency in buildings first will not only help corporations minimize expenses but also greatly reduce unnecessary carbon emissions from occurring in the first place. Skipping the important step of energy optimization in your buildings isn’t a best practice and results in a considerably longer time horizon to achieve “zero”. Additionally, the reduction in expenses resulting from reduced energy consumption can potentially fund other green initiatives to help achieve the organization’s sustainability goals.

Don’t just take our word for it. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends prioritizing energy efficiency, stating, “When pursuing a decarbonization plan, DOE is encouraging partners to lead with energy efficiency. Energy not used is energy saved, making the transition to clean, renewable energy infrastructure easier.”

So, while jumping to renewables and carbon offsetting projects may feel like a quick win, you’re missing a massive opportunity to make a positive impact right at home—in your buildings.

Greenhouse Gases—Are All Things Equal?

When we think about greenhouse gases, we think of energy, water, waste, and transportation of people—but are all of those things equal? Not exactly. According to the Climate Group, 40% of emissions come from the buildings that we occupy, whether we live or work in them. Building energy can make the biggest impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and if left unchecked, these emissions are set to double by 2050.

Data Availability

When you look at the availability of data for some greenhouse gas contributors, you find a continuum where utility energy data and water are actually readily available and easy to measure, because we have already been metering them for a long time. With the right tools, you can capture and visualize this data for maximum energy efficiency opportunities.

The First Step Toward Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

Now that you understand the importance of reducing consumption in your buildings first, there’s the question of how?

To identify opportunities for efficiency, Building Operators, Energy Managers, and Sustainability Leaders must begin by collating and analyzing electric, gas, water, waste, and other utilities consumed to operate their portfolio of buildings. One cannot manage what is not measured. They’ll want to benchmark building energy consumption, establish baselines, track trends over time, and identify anomalies. The best and easiest way to accomplish this task is to use information from utility bills.

Utility data is ubiquitous, relatively standardized, and available on a regular cadence. In some applications, additional building data is available at increased granularity from other sources (interval, BAS, or even IoT devices). But if you’re looking for somewhere to start, utility bill data is low-hanging fruit.

The larger your organization and the more buildings in your portfolio, the more difficult the task is. We often find that utility data is typically processed by a person manually inputting data into spreadsheets from paper bills or hidden away in an accounting system only accessible by few. Oftentimes, there is a 1–2-month lag in distributing utility data to energy and sustainability teams. The cumbersome and time-delayed nature of these traditional processes can become incredibly frustrating for energy and sustainability professionals who are ambitious to make an impact.

Luckily, there’s a solution to this problem, and we’ve been helping our customers streamline this process for decades.

Collecting and Analyzing Utility Bill Data

To streamline the process of collating and analyzing data, you’ll need utility bill and energy management software. The software enables accounting, energy management, and sustainability teams to visualize utility data in a single platform. Data once stuck in spreadsheets or in siloed accounting systems can be easily accessed as soon as bill data becomes available. Energy and sustainability professionals can quickly make important, data-driven decisions and prove the ROI of their programs.

There are four distinct reasons why utility bill and energy management software is essential to any sustainability strategy:

1. Holistic, Accurate Data

Accurate, up-to-date, consistent, and comprehensive data is the best way to establish benchmarks and equip decision-makers with everything they need to make the best decisions for their company’s future. Achieving net-zero carbon emissions is simply not possible when relying on intuition, gut feelings, or outdated and inaccurate data.

2. Efficiency

Manually processing and analyzing utility bill data cannot be part of your modern sustainability strategy, especially if carbon-neutrality is expected in the near term. Utility bill software can handle this process more efficiently and accurately than human workers’ manual capacity allows.

3. Reporting

Energy and sustainability professionals might understand utility bill data at a glance, but other stakeholders and decision-makers may not. Energy management software can automatically generate easy-to-understand, clear, and concise reports that can be shared with senior leadership with a few clicks of a button.

4. Savings Opportunities

Savings resulting from energy reduction are the ultimate goal, but other fixed utility costs are also a concern for any organization working to implement a sustainability strategy. Utility bill and energy management software will automatically identify anomalies in other utility costs, so your business is never paying more than it owes and can help fund other net-zero initiatives.

Once you have a good understanding of your building data and have optimized for energy efficiency, it’s the perfect time to take some of those dollars saved and expand your program to include other carbon reduction initiatives like onsite solar, PPAs, RECs, and yes, even carbon offsetting. With an energy management software tool, you’ll have the data you need to continuously and consistently report on your program’s impact and continue driving towards a net-zero future.

You already have utility bill data. What may be missing is the software to properly collect and analyze that data for you. That’s where EnergyCAP comes in. We offer award-winning energy management and utility bill accounting software that serves as the hub for your utility, energy, and ESG data.