JUST HOW MUCH ARE WE WILLING TO SPEND ON ENERGY MANAGEMENT?
Electricity is a form of energy formed by the transfer of electrons from the negative and positive points within a conductor. Electrical power should also be added to the list of basic needs as it is a fundamental commodity in the modern way of life and since it is not free of charge, bills have
to be incurred perennially. The amount paid to the utility companies is highly dependent on how we manage our energy consumption.
Over the recent years, most companies have taken the crucial steps in ensuring they conduct an energy audit to monitor their energy consumption.
Initially, most companies conducted the audits for compliance with the energy regulation laws stipulated by the regulating authority. However, this situation has shown some form of evolution from an obligatory to a voluntary exercise.
Current trends reveal that most companies are now requesting for real time energy management systems with an aim of slashing their electrical bills which account for a large portion of their expenditure. Data analysis of the recommended energy conservation measures over the last five years has shown that energy auditors recommended measures to the tune of over 2 Billion Kenya Shillings. Yes, Billions!
At the helm of the top 5 recommended energy conservation measures sits a technology we are all familiar with, Solar PV, at 61% of the total investment costs. If we can all recall, solar PV was a widely used technology in the rural areas as the main source of power when grid power was not yet accessible.
To the contrary, we were made to believe that solar power was for the poor and those living in upcountry in the rural areas. Owing to this popular thought, when grid power finally set foot, all households decommissioned their solar panels and turned to this option. If only we were well informed, we would have stuck to that technology.
Flash forward to the present, most industries are in an up-and-down rush to install solar panels to offset a chunk of their electrical bills. In the high-rise and real estate sectors, solar thermal technology has been made mandatory for all newly erected buildings to offset bills incurred by heating since heating appliances account for the largest portion of household electrical billing.
I have observed over time as an energy engineer, that the most frequent energy conservation measure is retrofitting previous lighting, mostly fluorescent and incandescent, to LED. LED technology is the latest technology in the lighting sector and it offers a higher efficacy i.e. a much higher luminous flux for the same watt rating as the elder siblings.
Modern buildings now invest in the installation of Building Management Systems that help control how much power is spent on lighting and water. These systems incorporate a couple of technologies such as:
- Occupancy sensors: Automatically switch lights on/off depending on the occupancy status of a room.
- Keycard controls: Switch the lighting on when the card is in the cardholder and off when the card is removed.
- Dimmers: Vary the level of lighting depending on the daylight.
- Timers: Automatically turn the lights on/off at preset times of the day. This is common with street lighting.
- Smart water flow rate meters: Automatically open water valves to usage points when they detect occupancy.
Energy management is as straightforward as the name itself, managing energy usage. At an industrial level, energy management requires professional training and experience to better comprehend the operation of machinery. Conversely, at a household level, no training is required and we can all become energy managers and reduce monthly energy billing.
This would include activities such as:
- Convert incandescent and florescent lightings to LED.
- Switch off lights when rooms are unoccupied.
- Utilization of natural daylighting.
- Avoid using running tap water for household chores.
- Choose energy-efficient electronic equipment i.e. with a higher energy star rating.
- Unplug idle electronics as electronics still consume power when left on standby.
- Utilize natural ventilation in place of air conditioners.
- Harness rainwater (if possible)
- Hang clothes out in natural air rather than drying with washing machines.
Charity begins at home. Let’s strive to become energy managers starting from our homes, workplaces and the environment at large, as most energy conservation measures require absolutely no financial input.
By Eric Gitonga Gitahi