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Blog – How AI is helping the education sector to save energy and cut utility bills

TEC’s members are reaping the benefits of sophisticated AI software to reduce energy waste and cut the cost of their energy bills too.

Energy management company kWIQly works in partnership with TEC to provide members with advanced energy diagnostics to reduce energy waste. We caught up with George Catto, Director of Client Services at KWIQly, and Steve Creighton, TEC’s Head of Member Services, to learn more about the innovative technology which is transforming the work of an energy manager.

What is the first step any organisation should take when tackling energy waste?

George: Firstly, you need to put in place the correct tools to provide a comprehensive understanding of energy consumption across your estate. This involves implementing AMR to record energy wherever it is potentially worth managing, typically energy will be managed by some form of control system which may range from a timeclock and thermostat to a comprehensive building management system (BMS). These tools together provide the inputs from which you can determine the actions worth taking and the means to take those actions. However, the missing piece is the analysis of which actions you should prioritise and why.

How does AI help identify and reduce energy waste?

George: It is difficult for humans to look through big data because it requires far too much time. Some organisations might have 300 sites with 900 gas, water and electricity meters across their portfolio.

Machine learning, informed by AI, can interrogate years’ worth of historic half-hourly data in seconds. The AI system can spot tell-tale signs of energy waste unique to each building through pattern recognition. This might include equipment running needlessly and heating controls incorrectly set and then provide a checklist of priority actions to increase efficiency and reduce energy costs.

Steve: AI software also helps energy managers prioritise issues and alert colleagues to them. By creating an optimum model of how a building should perform, the software is able to easily identify when things go wrong. It can also track progress on any fixes and report back with energy savings data.

How is AI software supporting TEC members to reduce energy waste?

Steve: As part of TEC’s Framework our members benefit from kWIQly’s full energy diagnostics tool. TEC work closely with kWIQly in reviewing outputs and enhancing service provision. The framework includes free provision of AMRs which allows for interpretation of data from them, identifying energy waste issues and helping to resolve them.

What are the major benefits of kWIQly’s energy management diagnostics for TEC members?

Steve: Saving time and money are two of the key benefits. In addition, reducing energy demand can make a significant contribution to organisations’ sustainability ambitions. This technology is particularly beneficial to the higher education sector who may have multiple sites and meters and very little time to monitor them.

George: The sophisticated functionality of the tool ensures that the software is very specific and clear, providing only relevant information to the end user. The analytics engine can establish achievable targets by KPI under varying weather conditions for each individual meter. It can also forecast future use and identify where changes have taken place.

What are the main outcomes so far of these energy management services for TEC members?

Steve: There are now more than 4,300 fully operational AMR meters on our members’ campuses and sites and this number is rising.

In 2023, our members addressed 101 issues where the software had identified anomalies reporting an impressive £345,000 of unjustifiable recorded energy expenditure. In the last two years kWIQly’s expertise has helped members reduce unexplained energy waste problems by a third. In addition, the average duration of such issues decreased from 55 to 40 days.

George: There are some significant success stories from several TEC members who have worked closely with us. kWIQly’s software has both helped pinpoint and reduce energy waste and supported organisational sustainability goals.

What new innovations are coming to the energy management market and will TEC members benefit from these?

George: We are currently trialling over 600 electrical meters for eleven TEC members where we are seeing very promising early results, we are also running an electrical sub-meter trial which involves 95 meters, fitted across a TEC member estate resulting in the identification of savings potential of more than £100k in waste. Data from electrical meters and sub-meters has been around for longer than AMR on gas but forensic analysis is in its’ infancy. The opportunity continues to broaden.

Steve: kWIQly provide a great package with additional provision of full access to the tool and/or quarterly meetings directly with kWIQly at minimal cost. This has been taken up by many of our members. So, if you’re a TEC member and you’re reading this piece please do ensure you are reaping the benefits!

As you can see, we are always working with our framework partners to maximise member benefits and to ensure that we are keeping abreast of all the latest and best market innovations. We advise members that reducing energy waste will always be their best tool to cut both energy demand and energy costs.

I’m looking forward to doing more work in 2024 with our members in pursuit of these goals.

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