Whether for budgetary or ecological reasons, energy consumption is a concern for many companies and individuals. The development of the big data environment and artificial intelligence now makes it possible to analyze consumption habits and make sometimes substantial savings. Thanks to data, we can now understand how we consume and thus optimize energy use.
Prevention rather than cure
Collecting data has never been easier. For several years now, the computational capabilities of artificial intelligence have made it possible to carry out increasingly sophisticated analyses and make recommendations.
The figures are known. It is estimated that the relevant use of data easily influences the energy bill. While some do not hesitate to suggest reductions of around 30%, others, more conservative, speak of a 10 to 20% reduction in costs. A French household consumes approximately 4770 kWh annually (2018 figures) for a bill of around 900 euros. The potential savings are therefore very real and do not imply a radical change in behavior.
In addition to this observational work, real-time monitoring of energy consumption is becoming increasingly sophisticated. It is now possible to identify an over-consumption of a household appliance, for example, or an unusual use of electricity in order to anticipate a possible problem. This type of application, which includes preventive maintenance, not only saves money but also allows us to detect breakdowns before they occur.
Implementing a strategy to reduce your bill and consumption
Of course, to observe real change, a plan of action must be put in place. Collecting consumption data is not enough. The preferred approach can be summarized as follows:
- Observe consumption data. This involves identifying the equipment or parts that consume the most electricity, identifying consumption peaks and checking the quality of the energy supply. It is therefore a diagnostic phase;
- Implementing an energy flow management system. In some cases, a specific Building Management System will be implemented, in others, systems already installed will be used. We will come back to this later. The essential thing is to have the tools to observe and process data in real time. When setting up this system, scalability issues are crucial;
- Determining priorities and an action plan. This critical phase consists in transforming the information collected into real actions. This implies a real strategy at the enterprise level and a clear and known definition of objectives and priorities;
- Evaluate the savings and benefits by considering all the elements. A cost-benefit analysis is essential to evaluate the implemented strategy. If the costs are calculated in relation to the investments made, the benefits can take various forms. Beyond the purely financial aspect, elements such as the company's environmental responsibility must obviously be considered.
A necessity for the planet
Beyond the savings made, the need to reduce energy consumption is essential to preserve the planet. Studies concerning the causal link between natural disasters, global warming and human activity have multiplied recently. This branch of climatology even has a name: "extreme event attribution" or attribution of extreme weather events (some would say singular).
In recent years, this discipline has been striving to demonstrate, often successfully, the link between global warming and singular events. In the United Kingdom, for example, a direct link has been proven between global warming, which increased the risk of precipitation in one location by 43%, and heavy flooding in 2013. This example is only one element among a multitude of indicators. In 2018, the National Observatory on the Effects of Global Warming presented a detailed report on the subject to the Prime Minister and Parliament.
These elements are just one more encouragement to take the time needed to analyze our consumption data and change behaviors.
The delicate balance with green computing
Analyze data, receive recommendations, and implement them. Presented like this, reducing your electricity bill and your environmental footprint seems extremely simple. Make no mistake, hell is paved with good intentions. Intensive data processing is no exception to the rule. In recent years, we have been hearing about sustainable computing or green computing. Some will prefer the term "Green IT". Data processing obviously leads to energy consumption linked to computing and information technology in general, and this potentially poses an environmental problem.
According to the International Energy Agency, Internet traffic increased by almost 40% between February and mid-April 2020 and has multiplied twelvefold in the space of ten years. In 2019, data centers accounted for around 1% of global energy consumption, or just over 200 TWh.
The outlook is optimistic, however, and experts believe that consumption could remain stable provided that efforts in terms of data center architecture and structure are maintained. The internet giants, led by GAFA, are investing massively in renewable energies. In 2019, Google and Apple, for example, have created or purchased enough renewable energy to cover 100% of the energy needs of their data centers. The transition, although too slow for many, is already underway.
In any case, maintaining the right balance will be a major challenge in the years to come. Sustainable IT is destined to become a social debate.
Analyzing your consumption data, where do you start?
Solving the squaring of the energy circle seems inevitably complicated. Nevertheless, analyzing its consumption to identify possible leaks is a simple first step.
In recent years, many start-ups have developed targeting individuals or companies. Our company Ryax offers a data processing platform that is not limited to energy consumption alone. Thanks to our integrated solution, a company benefits from a uniform solution to collect and process all relevant data flows. The use of a single platform thus allows a faster apprehension of the tools available as well as a better understanding of the systems by all the actors concerned within the company.
The Ryax Team.