U.S. Postal Service Uses Energy Information Systems

November 29, 2004

The U.S. Postal Service recently installed energy information systems (EIS) at 30 facilities in California, taking advantage of financial incentives offered through the California Energy Commission's Peak Load Reduction Program. By enabling facility managers to view and analyze facility interval load data, these systems can be used to identify a wide variety of opportunities for significant energy cost savings. Historically, however, many facility personnel have not been sufficiently trained in techniques for interpreting and applying EIS data. As a result, the value that these systems can provide has frequently gone unrealized.

To help Postal Service personnel utilize their EIS, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has issued a guidebook, Using Energy Information Systems: A Guidebook for the U.S. Postal Service. The guidebook is intended as a resource for facility managers interested in identifying energy cost savings opportunities, with an emphasis on energy saving O&M improvements. It also will serve as the basis for training sessions offered to Postal Service personnel by LBNL.

The guidebook outlines a set of specific strategies for using EIS data to reduce energy consumption and costs, including:

  • Benchmarking Energy Use Levels. Benchmarking can be an important first step in assessing the potential for energy efficiency gains. With the data available through their EIS, energy managers can create a variety of energy metrics to compare their facility's performance to similar Postal Service facilities or to compare performance between shifts at their facility. In this way, resources can be targeted at less efficient facilities and shifts.
  • Reducing Peak Demand. EIS can be employed in a number of ways to assist in reducing peak demand and associated demand charges. By regularly examining daily load profiles, facility managers can identify and eliminate demand spikes, such as those associated with simultaneous motor start-ups. Load duration curves, another instrument in the EIS toolbox, are particularly helpful for assessing the potential benefits from peak shaving efforts. Finally, by monitoring facility loads in near real-time or using demand alarms, facility managers will know when to take action to avoid exceeding targeted peak demand levels.
  • Eliminating Inefficient Equipment Operation. Wasteful equipment scheduling can often be detected easily with EIS data. By reviewing daily load profiles and comparing to benchmark levels, facility managers can identify instances when unused equipment is left running or is turned on prematurely.
  • Improving Building Energy Equipment Performance. Malfunctioning or degraded equipment often has an associated "energy fingerprint." For example, a broken economizer damper may be signaled by an increase in the frequency of compressor cycling. Such fingerprints can often be detected by regularly reviewing EIS data and comparing to established benchmarks.
  • Facilitating Demand Response. Electric utilities in many regions offer demand response programs that pay incentives to customers who are willing to reduce demand for a limited number of hours per year. Federal facilities are also occasionally requested by senior management or state agencies to reduce electricity use voluntarily during periods when electricity supplies are tight. Facility managers can use EIS to assess the demand response potential at their facility and monitor their performance during emergency events. EIS with event notification and/or load control capabilities can be used to streamline and automate demand response and ensure that load reductions are rapid and reliable.

With these tools—and a little creativity—facility managers can begin to tap the rich source of information offered by EIS to yield significant energy cost reductions.

For more information, please contact Bill Golove, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 510-486-5229 or hgolove@lbl.gov.