Investment-Grade Energy Audits 101
An energy audit is an examination of a building for energy efficiency improvement purposes. Through analysis of energy usage, building characteristics, weather data, and the typical usage of the building, an energy audit uncovers energy conservation opportunities. These measures are then assessed to identify savings and improve the quality of life within the building. See if an investment-grade audit is right for you and explore the alternatives.
There are four levels of analysis pertaining to energy audits:
Level 0: Energy benchmarking examines the historic utility data of the building and compares it against similar buildings. This uncovers inefficiencies of the building and allows for an educated decision on whether an audit is worthwhile. To start this process, get a free trial of WegoPro to automatically retrieve your building's or portfolio's utility data and rank it.
Level 1: A walk-through audit is a brief assessment to identify low cost energy improvements and areas where more detailed future audits can focus.
Level 2: A general audit is a comprehensive evaluation of the building and potential energy conservation measures through detailed information collection, in-depth interviews with facilities or operations managers, and the analysis of energy profiles created through interval metering.
Level 3: An investment-grade audit is a comprehensive analysis of potentially pricey energy efficiency improvements with a distinct focus on financial concerns and return on investment.
An in-depth look at investment-grade energy audits
Investment-grade audits are often done as a part of an energy savings performance contract (ESPC) conducted by an energy services company (ESCO). An ESPC commonly includes a wide range of efficiency measures, including envelope improvements, installation of more efficient HVAC systems, installation of renewables, and utility conservation methods. The ESCO works to acquire funding for the project, performs the investment grade audits, and then maintains the upgrades until the expected savings are reached.
Comprehensive audits such as these often include measures such as the submetering of individual energy consuming systems within the building, and the monitoring and analysis of specific situations that cause variances in energy and utility use. Ultimately, they provide a technical and financial assessment of energy conservation opportunities and projected savings.
According to the California Energy Commission, an investment grade audit should cover at least the following:
- Operating hours analysis
- Inventory of all energy consuming equipment
- Energy rates and cost figures for all utilities
- Analysis of at least one year of historical utility billing data
- Energy balance analysis
- Identification of the major energy consuming equipment and processes in the building
- Analysis of opportunities for energy efficiency measures and their potential savings and payback periods
- Identification of suitable retrofits and technology for these measures
- Identification of potential measures in similar buildings, which are not feasible for the building in question
Because energy efficiency projects require significant engineering, design, and construction work, investment-grade audits are quite expensive and time-consuming. Plus, they often compete for funding on the corporate level with other potential investments. But since stakeholders are usually focused on return on investment, the guaranteed savings offered by an ESCO and investment-grade energy audit can make them attractive.
But committing to an investment-grade audit can be scary. Your company may not have the upfront capital budget to take the plunge. But there are small, inexpensive steps you can take to move the energy efficiency needle. For instance, doing some basic energy benchmarking of your buildings is simple. If you're a property owner who's ready to get more from your utility data with advanced analytics and simple reporting, consider a WegoPremium demo. Whichever route you take, good luck!