Benjamin Franklin once famously wrote, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” A sobering thought as we approach tax time across North America, but the latter is definitely preferable to the former. Taxes, after all, can teach us a little something about energy management. And in fact, some of those lessons highlight the tremendous opportunities that arise when we all manage energy better.
Without question, tax season creates great anxiety for many people. If you haven’t been responsible along the way, collecting a year’s worth of paperwork and receipts is no picnic, even for those who expect a sizable tax refund. Whether we’re talking about personal finance or energy data management, it begins with data organization and concludes with data accuracy. (For the record, an energy audit is a lot more interesting than a tax audit, and has a much more appealing payback!)
There’s no substitute for reliable data. And not just more data. Better data. Personal finance and tax software does what we humans sometimes struggle with: it aggregates complex data streams – checking accounts, savings accounts, retirement vehicles, stocks, bonds, etc. – into one central platform. Data organization is the perfect place to start for finances, and for energy management. In fact, the benefits are incredibly similar.
The most practical personal finance/tax software really serves five fundamental functions:
- Organization: It categorizes your spending so you understand when, where and how much you spend
- Analyses: It alerts you when your approach or exceed your budgets
- Optimization: It maximizes your return or minimizes your liability
- Goal-setting: It helps you set budgets/targets/goals for both spending and saving
- Support: It gives you optional access to experts for additional support
Now let’s consider energy software. Let’s say you own several factories. Each month, utility bills arrive for each of your facilities. You have visibility into how much energy you use, but to do anything with this information, you need more:
- What equipment is consuming this energy?
- When is it being consumed?
- Where are my facilities most efficient? Where are they inefficient?
- Why am I on a particular rate?
Now let’s apply those five fundamental areas to better understand how energy management software benefits energy managers, facility personnel, operations professionals, etc.:
- Organization: It aggregates your energy data in a single system and provides easy access to your information at any time, from anywhere
- Analyses: It allows you to see where and when energy is being consumed by assigning energy consumption to specific processes, loads or departments
- Optimization: It identifies poor performers and best practices
- Goal-setting: It produces performance reporting vs. goals with timely alerts when you’re off target
And, when it’s necessary, the software connects the user to energy experts (#5).
That’s the support function we talked about, and it highlights an important distinction in software options: Software as a Service (SaaS) vs. Software as a Managed Service (SaaMS). Traditionally, SaaS includes expert support as an additional-fee-based option. SaaMS includes the software as well as the services necessary to get the most out of it. The sophistication of an organization’s energy personnel and the complexity of the energy profile can help to determine which is the better fit.
In either case, just like tax preparation, energy management doesn’t have to be so difficult. The right energy software makes your energy data easier to access, your key metrics easier to understand and your energy efficiency projects easier to prioritize. And, it helps provide true visibility to the very real opportunities that exist on both the supply and demand side of the energy equation.
Ben Franklin may have known a thing or two about the certainty of death and taxes. But, as the guy who famously flew a kite in a thunderstorm, Ben certainly had a lot to learn about energy management. Just think of what he could’ve done with software.
If you’re interested in energy management software, we can help. Leave a comment below or click for more information.
Read my previous post on oceans and energy hedging.