Smart solutions can unlock your power

In today's environment, energy-intensive businesses are faced with a number of challenges to ensure they run effectively in a constrained operational environment.

Energy management is one of these concerns that has pushed itself up the business agenda. Power is a critical element for any business no matter what industry, but it needs to be reliable and economically sustainable.

With organisations increasingly using more power, it has become a challenging task to manage it efficiently. Traditional power management solutions such as switch gear, circuit breakers and metering devices are all key elements to managing energy usage.

However, relying on these solely to keep track of what is used could mean that businesses are missing the opportunity to run their operations even more efficiently.

Poor power management in a business presents a number of risks. Without managing power effectively, it means there isn't a clear understanding of what state the electrical infrastructure is in, meaning there is no visibility of what is happening inside a facility in terms of energy usage.

This could lead to overall reliability issues with power availability if problems are not tracked and monitored, which could have a huge impact to a business if power fails. Additionally, without the visibility across the infrastructure, businesses are unable to identify where money is being spent on energy.

Wasted money

Organisations regularly face challenges in maintaining or even increasing profits. Energy is a significant and often-overlooked expense that can represent a substantial area of opportunity.

Once energy usage and its related costs are exposed, the potential for releasing large amounts of wasted money becomes more clear. Reducing these costs can help firms survive tough times in the short term while reducing financial risk and strengthening competitive positioning into the future.

Energy management is one approach in which businesses can easily keep track of usage and monitor spend more effectively. The concept of energy management can be seen as a daunting task to many organisations, especially when it means moving away from traditional well-known tools and systems that may already be in place.

With multiple elements such as maintaining power system reliability, complying with evolving emissions regulations, and reducing the risks posed by volatile energy prices, energy management can easily seem nearly impossible to achieve.

However, power management doesn't need to be a difficult task. There are solutions available that allow businesses to improve operational, cost and energy efficiencies, increase reliability and availability of power and overall, improve asset optimisation, through combined solutions. 

Moving away from traditional power management tools and opting to use more complete solutions that offer an integrated, fully scalable and reliable power management system, allows businesses to improve the reliability of the electrical distribution system, from medium voltage to final distribution.

Improved continuity

This is done by using advanced software that provides central monitoring, control, and analytical functions, combined with customised applications, where needed.

Opting for a complete mechanical, electrical and digital system that is modular and interoperable, allows improved continuity of supply and enhanced safety for people and equipment.

By using the information that these types of systems are able to provide, businesses have the opportunity to make decisions on how best to minimise costs and energy use without effecting overall business operations.

This increases the financial and operational efficiency of an enterprise, which is one of the key limitations of traditional power management solutions.

When choosing a power management system, businesses have a number of aspects to think about, but importantly a key consideration is compatibility with third party systems.

It is important that solutions chosen to manage power across a business are flexible in order to adapt to unique business requirements as well as the changing environments within organisations.

It is important that solutions chosen to manage power across a business are flexible in order to adapt to unique business requirements as well as the changing environments within organisations.

A number of businesses may have some traditional management solutions already in place, so third party integration is a priority in order to seamlessly integrate and leverage all systems.

However, not all businesses operate in the same way and infrastructure varies, meaning power management requirements will be different.

It is important that solutions chosen to manage power across a business are flexible in order to adapt to unique business requirements as well as the changing environments within organisations.

Ensuring power management systems are fully integrated and complete solutions with the capability to offer organisations the required flexibility that can meet individual business requirements and help solve challenges is key, and assists in adapting to varying infrastructures.

Escalating usage

For example, if a data centre were concerned about escalating energy usage, by using a flexible solution it would be able to implement pre-designed power management solutions that include the ability to verify and track Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), in addition to resolving issues such as battery maintenance, run time variations, and integration with fuel management systems.

Using an advanced power management system means the data centre would have the necessary information to be able to identify where and when energy is being used, and make informed decisions about the best solutions in which usage could be improved – that is, to reduce power consumption and save money on operating costs.

Analyse and control

When considering the capabilities of a power management system, it is important that businesses are able to quickly and easily monitor, analyse and control the entire network to ensure that they have visibility.

Power Management Solutions that comprise of integrated hardware, communications and software components that unite disparate power infrastructure elements are a way in which a network can be closely tracked and monitored.

Personalised tools

By selecting seamless technology that underpins the solutions, both management and frontline personnel have the personalised tools needed to make timely, cost-trimming energy decisions without sacrificing reliability or operational efficiency.

In a world where businesses are constantly searching for a competitive advantage, complete power management solutions have the ability to support this by providing a more advanced system compared to traditional power management solutions.

When implementing an advanced system that offers more than traditional power management solutions, businesses have the potential to achieve energy savings of up to 30 per cent.

Power management is a concern across all industries, and an issue that is unlikely to disappear in the future. It is important for all businesses to be mindful of the power they use, and consider options that gives them the complete visibility other than traditional solutions.

Not only will it improve on cost savings benefiting the business overall, but it also means regulations are being adhered to in the future.

[Samuel Coupel is Product Manager, Energy Management & Power Quality, Schneider Electric Australia.]

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