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BCWSA Leverages Energy Tracking Software to Drive Savings

In 2010, the management at BCWSA created a permanent energy efficiency team to develop new ideas on a continuing basis in the run-up to adopting an energy management software platform. This allows Bucks County to factor new projects into long-term strategic capital plans. The BCWSA Energy Team conducts quarterly meetings to review data, new ideas, and any software platforms, techniques, or technologies that could beneficial to the organization in its goal to reduce energy usage. In addition, the team created a policy requiring that any new equipment installed be more energy-efficient than the existing equipment. This policy includes communicating to developers and vendors that BCWSA will not accept a new installation if it does not satisfy the agency’s prescriptive energy efficiency requirements.

After careful consideration, BCWSA’s energy team decided that integrating an ERP software platform into its existing IT and digital control infrastructure would be the best way to track its energy consumption. The Authority’s research indicated they could leverage the ERP system to perform data analytics functions that could help maximize performance by modeling the operational performance of energy-using assets to determine if they can shed unnecessary loads or if system optimization is required.

BCWSA evaluated four different software proposals before choosing one by a local vendor. The chosen product needed to be expandable, easy to use, and reasonably priced; the capital cost and installation totaled approximately $51,000, with a much lower annual service and maintenance cost after the first year. The vendor’s local proximity also aided with commissioning and troubleshooting.

The nature of energy management software made it problematic for BCWSA to perform a straight “apples-to-apples” comparison between competing proposals. For example, the Authority could have chosen software focused primarily on facilities energy management at a more competitive price point than a full-scale ERP platform covering operational processes end-to-end. However, the Authority’s goal was to adopt a full-scale platform to integrate data collection from all of their operations, including energy usage, billing, human resources, and capital expenditures. In addition to costs, BCWSA mapped out and compared the four proposals’ capabilities in the following areas:

  • Ability to communicate with their existing supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system
  • Ability to communicate with programmable logic controllers (PLC) on their pumping and fan systems
  • Mobile-enabled (smart phone app)
  • Interoperability with other platforms
  • Predictive analytics
  • Preventive maintenance
  • Process analytics
  • Process modeling
  • Project management, e.g. energy efficiency measures
  • Project cost and return on investment (ROI)
  • Purchasing management, e.g. generate work orders
  • Facility equipment management, e.g. spare parts, equipment maintenance schedules
  • Delivery model, e.g. onsite, cloud, hosted by 3rd party
  • Customer support, direct or 3rd party vendor

An important aspect of this project was the ease of use and expandability of the platform. A short training session was held with the operators and the vendor was able to work with the IT department to integrate the platform in with existing assets. Because Bucks County’s facilities have internet connectivity, it was easy to implement the data transfer protocols needed to integrate the new platform. In most cases, new hardware was not required, but some sensors were added to certain locations, such as pumping lift stations. The vendor also installed a web-based building automation software package to receive real-time electric usage data for each piece of equipment at the Green Street, Harvey, and Upper Dublin facilities (pumps, motors, meters, etc.).

The accompanying tools and informational resources are displayed below:

Success is measured upon site demand (KW) and consumption kWh reductions which are converted into overall dollars saved. The versatility of the ERP platform makes this possible. The ERP-based Energy Management Software has been implemented at three (Green Street, Harvey, and Upper Dublin) out of four BCWSA facilities. In 2017, the Green Street facility saw 4 percent improvement in energy intensity and the Harvey facility improved its energy intensity by 2.8 percent. Per John Butler, General Manager, the ERP-based system may have contributed approximately 50 percent of total maintenance and energy efficiency improvement-related actions taken in 2017.

The ERP platform also enables Bucks County to generate customized reports that include variables like pumping system energy and performance data, flow, and rainfall. This has helped the Authority isolate spikes or anomalies in energy consumption and identify ways to mitigate them. Bucks County is also developing a benchmarking history to compare when reductions or changes are made for possible reimbursement of energy costs under Pennsylvania’s Act 129, a state energy efficiency law that requires utilities to develop plans to encourage energy efficiency and conservation among their customers.

To date, BCWSA has been able to successfully monitor over 125 pumping stations with various sensors clustered across three facilities, with a proposal to incorporate a fourth facility once capital improvements at that location are completed. Since the implementation of the ERP platform, Bucks County has made operational adjustments to optimize energy consumption. The software helps the Authority identify areas that may need improvement, whether an operational fix or installation of capital equipment. Good results in one facility will lead to a request for additional funds, per BCWSA’s capital investment plan, for each additional facility. Software data results have also driven adjustments in operations.  For example, BCWSA has a 100,000 kWh/year solar array and the Authority has used software data to determine time frames for energy use reduction to shave peak loads whenever possible.