Knowledge is value

In the competitive business environment, information on energy use patterns can help increase operating efficiency. But to really make a difference to the bottom line, an easy-access total energy management system with real-time measurement and up-to-the-minute analysis is needed. Enter EnerWise.

Gordon Hesse

Conectiv, Newark

Delaware, USA

As many in the engineering and other fields know, `That which you cannot measure you cannot manage`,” said Conectiv Energy`s Dave Sneeringer, Manager, Technology Development. “So it is with energy. In the new electric utility industry environment, a premium is being placed on energy usage information.”

Based in Wilmington, Delaware, Conectiv Energy provides energy services to the mid-Atlantic region, including its EnerWise Manager system which allows its customers to access information on their energy use. “One can easily interpret margin or profitability as the value of information,” said Sneeringer. Taken to its logical conclusion, having the necessary operational information enables the user to optimise its stream of profits, which is the basis of any business.

The premise behind the development and implementation of EnerWise Manager service is simplicity of use, openness of communication for the customer, and system flexibility, thereby delivering maximum value to the customer. “We believe that our US patent-pending Open Platform Information System (OPIS), the backbone of the EnerWise Manager service, is the ideal platform for real-time measurement processing combined with up-to-the-minute energy cost analysis.”

With the EnerWise Internet solution, large and smaller customers can access and use relevant energy information in a timely, efficient, and cost-effective manner.

“Customers can compare current and past consumption patterns and metrics because EnerWise graphs and tables energy use, peak demand and other historical and current information for up to 25 months,” said Sneeringer.

About Conectiv

Conectiv is the product of a merger completed on March 1, 1998 when Delmarva Power and Atlantic Energy merged. Conectiv`s family of businesses are the regulated Conectiv Power Delivery and its unregulated businesses, which include:

– Conectiv Energy (retail energy)

– Conectiv Solutions (energy management)

– Conectiv Communi- cations (telecommunications) and;

– Conectiv Services (HVAC and plumbing).

Conectiv is currently providing metering services through EnerWise in California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Southern California Edison (SCE) has licensed this Conectiv Energy information system technology, and is marketing it as part of Edison`s Advanced Metering, Information, Communication and Opera- tional System (Amicos). Other EnerWise clients include major auto and industrial manufacturers and petroleum refineries as well as telecommunications leaders.

Determining best value

Functional since the spring of 1997, EnerWise uses the dynamic capabilities of the Internet to provide unprecedented power and ease of use across a broad spectrum of data acquisition, analysis, and information dissemination. Users can get the information they need to make efficient, profitable purchases in the existing and upcoming competitive energy markets.

With the ability to access operational information from anywhere, at any time, and analyse and display their energy and other process information, companies generally can optimise their business processes, and their energy activities and purchases in particular. Energy brokers and marketers recognise that customers with these capabilities can provide them the best operational load information, thereby reducing the market risk of energy purchases. That recognition allows those customers to command the best value for their energy dollars.

“In the past, usage graphs were provided a month after the fact and would therefore be of marginal value,” said Robert Holzer, a plant engineer at Kelly Foods in Berlin, Maryland. “The EnerWise service provides us with a means to view our usage in real time so that we can in turn evaluate our operations and manage our peak demand periods.”

The University of Delaware (Newark, Delaware) continuously monitors natural gas usage from their central utility plant and five remote satellite locations. The central utility plant serves almost 0.5 million m3 of building space. University personnel monitor hourly, daily and monthly gas usage against contracted supply parameters, enabling the University to cost-effectively utilise fuel resources, either by balancing natural gas between locations or converting to oil.

By providing hourly gas consumption information, necessary operational and contract decisions can be made in advance of penalty or opportunity situations, thereby once again helping to reduce operating costs. The timely operational information keeps the plant operators in control of their activities.

“We are using the EnerWise Manager service to better manage our daily and monthly nominations of contracted gas supply and determine, on a real-time basis, how we will allocate this supply between various sites across campus,” said Dick Walter, CFM, director of facilities management at the University of Delaware. “This tool makes it possible for our boiler operators to make their own assessment, and minimizes the risk of over/under utilization of daily and monthly gas allowances.”

Simplicity and flexibility

Conectiv`s experience has played a key role in recognising customer needs and developing the product to meet those needs. “It is important that the customer is able to communicate information clearly, easily, and in a timely manner to their energy supplier or to any variety of end-users, either within or outside the organization,” said Sneeringer. “It is also critical that the system has the flexibility to aggregate customers` load information over multiple sites regardless of location for the necessary time intervals.”

EnerWise does just that. Additionally, it is capable of providing billing, profiling, and forecasting for customers at the click of a button. The ability to provide both electrical and systems control is under development. Being Web-based, full advantage is taken of Web technology from HTML through advanced Java applets. Because EnerWise utilises the Internet infrastructure, any number of authorized people at any location throughout the world can access and discuss the information simultaneously.

“At Conectiv Energy, we are committed to making energy information as simple as possible and easy for customers to use and access,” said Mike Schlegel, Conectiv`s technical sales manager. “After all, even the most powerful system is of little, if any, value if the customer does not use it. As Einstein said, `Genius is in making the complex simple`.”

System description

EnerWise is rooted in the principles of total quality management as practiced by successful operations management. Conectiv`s goal is to help firms improve their level of profitability via intelligent process monitoring and control. “We began with the premise of creating an information system that enables customers to gather, analyse, and present meaningful process information anytime, anywhere,” said Sneeringer. “We realised early on that ultimately we are engaged in a new kind of information technology business. Energy has become but one of many processes EnerWise provides operational information about for customers. Due to the simplicity, ease of use and individualized customization, the resulting application is unique.”

The components of the EnerWise system are integrated and designed to expand functionality and flexibility to meet the needs of planned load data acquisition. “Along the way,” Sneeringer adds, “we have been listening and responding to our customers, incorporating their crucial feedback into each new release. That is an important point: the system is not static.” Conectiv is developing its third major release of EnerWise, adding its real-world experience in the new energy information marketplace.

The meter: the EnerWise system foundation is based on the system`s capability to acquire data and translate data from virtually every utility industry metering device, and many other metering devices. EnerWise can translate data from more than 120 types of load recorders and metering devices via its use of the MV-90 universal translation system. This capability is dynamic and keeps pace with new developments as they come into the market.

Information integration is transparent to customers. They view a convenient and systematic array of energy information in real time or over specified intervals that make it possible for them to buy energy at a competitive price. They also can see energy process information that identifies, reports and assists in optimizing the use of energy for cost management. This configuration also allows the customer to take advantage of and grow with the system`s enhancements and upgrades as technology advances.

The electronic data communications: the flexibility of EnerWise is demonstrated throughout, from data acquisition through customer reports. EnerWise currently reads load data recorders in the field via phone lines, over networks via TCP/IP protocol, and if necessary, from the existing meter translation system database. The data retrieved from the recorders includes, but is not limited to, kW, kWh, and kVAr, over the desired time intervals.

The system currently reads million cubic feet (mcf) of gas, outside temperature, and chiller inlet and outlet water flows and temperatures. The system can give customers “live” hourly marginal prices for real-time pricing solutions.

Data is accessed either via Conectiv`s state-of-the-art MV-90 or in-house developed translation systems and transferred to its server and then posted to the Internet. In general terms, it is a multi-tier system whose components include a relational database data warehouse, a metering and business rule abstraction layer, and an HTTP server.

EnerWise provides load information over multiple time intervals, including the following time intervals and frequencies:

– Once a month, hourly reads

– Once a day, hourly reads

– Once an hour, hourly reads

– Real-time over the corporate or the public network.

The server/software: raw meter data is capable of being manipulated at either the server or client level. The appropriateness of the solution is determined by the system integrity and speed and quality before the customer. Customer end-use manipulation of data will tend to be performed locally at the client site so as to not slow system processing. This allows for faster and more flexible processing at the client level, while maintaining database optimization and speed at the central processing server, a true utilization of the client/server architecture.

The client data manipulation and analysis can be handled through Java applets. The system design also gives the customer the ability to have the meter data tables downloaded to a flat Ascii file for input into customer specific applications, e.g. Excel, Lotus and Access databases. This is accomplished through the simple “File Save As” feature in standard browsers. All of the current and future associated infrastructure features built into the Web browser platforms – the saving of files, e-mail capabilities, and Java applications, and more – are automatically encompassed in the system.

Conectiv uses corporate firewalls to secure customers` information that it collects. In addition to firewall protection, the company has designed intra-, inter-, and extra-net protection devices into their web access products. The EnerWise database and associated applications are Y2K compliant (can handle time/date data from January 1, 1970 through March, 2037). This is built on the 32-bit architecture of the Unix-based environment in which Conectiv develops and operates its systems. Encryption is provided through 128-bit SSL (Secure Socket Layer) technology, the same as is currently used for major financial company credit card transactions.

The customer interface/internet: because the interface technology requires the customer only to have a browser, it requires little to no investment in software. The system also takes advantage of the flexibility and connectivity of the Internet. This is accomplished by using the functionality in the current major browsers, i.e., Java applets which provide the customer with information flexibility.

The EnerWise web page can be examined by pointing to the following Universal Resource Location (URL): https:// conectiv.com/ew

“Snappy,” a sample site, is Conectiv`s aggregation model for a multi-site customer and can be viewed at the above URL. In this case, while the name is fictitious, the information behind the front end is an accumulation of actual customers which Conectiv is monitoring on an hourly basis. Figure 4 shows sample data from the Snappy site.

Power quality

The EnerWise system also links with and publishes power quality information. The system provides such information as outages, voltage dips and sags, power factors, phase information for power, amps and volts, and harmonics. As the monitoring technology for power quality information moves into lower-end recording devices, Conectiv plans to provide users more power quality information. The key to Conectiv`s ability to present these more complex activities is the underlying concept of the system; that is, to maintain an “open” system that is capable of reading information from a wide variety of input devices and systems.

Customer value comes from making more information available to the end-users on their terms, not from forcing customers to adapt to vendors` systems.

Scaleability

A basic tenet of the EnerWise system is scaleability. The original designers believed the data requirements for this system would grow dramatically. Therefore, the design was based on a fully scaleable platform that could serve a million customers with the same logic and capabilities as when it served one. That same scaleability logic flows through the entire information acquisition and delivery system.

By taking the best of centralized processing, where large amounts of data are processed, and then optimising the customer interface with a distributed information system (Web interface with Java applets), there is true mass customization. This allows Conectiv to support the system software at a lower cost to the customer. By going through the “live” customer Web pages, users can “drill down” into the site to get a better appreciation for the applications and how they are ready for use by various personnel throughout the enterprise.

The value to the customer of an information system is defined by understanding relevant customer needs and delivering on them. The regulated utilities which founded Conectiv have a 100-year history of commitment to customer service excellence. Conectiv has brought that same quality to the competitive markets, demonstrated by its 98 per cent customer retention rate in the Pennsylvania competitive electric markets in 1998.

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Figure 1. Conectiv is the product of a merger completed on March 1, 1998 when Delmarva Power and Atlantic Energy joined forces

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Figure 2. EnerWise clients include major industrial manufacturers

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Figure 3. Conectiv`s Michael Schlegel (left) and David Sneeringer

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Figure 4. Sample energy use data from Conectiv`s “Snappy” sample site