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Using technology to help us manage our energy and water use

Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust has invested in technology to help it better understand demand on energy and water use.

Using technology to help us manage our energy and water use

Updating how we log our energy use in a pandemic

Toby Donhou, Energy & Carbon Manager for Care Without Carbon tells us about how the Trust has invested in automated meter reading technology to help it better understand energy and water consumption.

“Just as the Coronavirus Pandemic hit in the first part of last year, we were getting underway with updating our automated meter reading (AMR) system; this involves gas, water and electricity meters being logged so that, in addition to them automatically sending a read to suppliers every month to avoid estimated invoices, they also show us consumption in every half hour period of the day. We also have these on sub-meters to show us the same thing on a building-by-building basis at sites like Brighton General Hospital.”

Although the pandemic could have derailed these plans, thankfully it didn’t as Toby explains.

“Fortunately, with the clement weather last spring and with meters being mostly in locations that are low Covid risk for the installing engineer, with one or two exceptions, we were able to press on and renew and expand the system further than ever before; this gives us a powerful insight in to how and when we use energy across the SCFT’s estate and keep a close eye on possible water leaks too. By the autumn, most of the work had been completed, with just a few to come back to when Covid restrictions allowed.”

What can we do with the information?

toby is clear that these automated meter reading systems can really help the Trust get the data it needs to better understand and manage energy use, which ultimately will help manage carbon emissions. Toby told us, “This same data is fed into our central energy management database and is used for a range of activities, including matching it against invoice validation to ensure we’re only charged for what we legitimately consume and also exception reporting. This is where we are able to set tolerance parameters in the system that the automated data is assessed against; if consumption moves out of tolerance then it will generate an email for the team to review. Examples could be an increase in night time water consumption, possibly indicating a leak, or gas consumption running far beyond the timeframe when heating may be required. We are only in the early stages of using this sort of functionality but we will be maximising this, especially as we go into winter.”

“A really great example of what such high-resolution data can show can be seen in the impact that reduced activity at some of our buildings last spring had on our energy consumption, such as staff decanting to work at home. In the picture above, you can see how in the week that national lockdowns were imposed, the peak daily consumption got lower and lower; a lower trend compared to usual was maintained for some months after this.”

It is this level of detail that will enable the energy team to really target interventions to manage energy use where they can make the most impact and help us meet our challenging carbon reduction targets.