H. James Harrington had it right, measurement is the key to improvement . But there is an important corollary to Harrington’s assertion — it’s not enough to measure.
It’s Not Enough To Measure
Accountability and incentive are required to inspire improvement, and nowhere is that more evident than in the world of energy management and billing. No matter how you slice it, for sustainable energy management it’s imperative that stakeholders have visibility of the electricity they are consuming, and are accountable for it. Whether the goal is reducing excess energy usage, justifying new measures for building capital expenditure, deciding on service vendors, or just sharing cost equitably — without accountability, action will not happen in a sustainable manner.
Accountability Means Paying
This is a critical point when choosing equipment for electrical measurement. Metering vs. monitoring can be confusing because the equipment looks almost the same functionally (indeed, it is often exactly the same) and the terminology is casually interchanged.
It boils down to this. If you are going to monitor electricity— use an electrical meter. If you are metering as the basis for charging for electricity or qualifying for financial incentives, however, you must use an electrical meter that meets the criteria set out by local regulations for such devices.
Show Me the Money, Show Me the Meter
This is an important distinction. If money changes hands (as with government incentive programs or tenant billing for example) certified electrical meters become a legislated requirement in many jurisdictions.To be clear, if a meter is only being used for internal purposes and not to bill tenants or receive financial remuneration, it does not have to be a regulated meter.
In fact, in some jurisdictions there are no such rules for certification even on financial transactions, but this is not a viable approach long-term — especially when regulation is destined to be introduced.
A Growing Wave of Regulation
It should be noted, however, that because of increasing resource constraints (generation and fuel) and rising energy costs, there is a growing wave of regulation across the world to govern the measurement of electrical consumption. In fact, this is becoming the norm. It is only sensible, therefore, to prepare for the likelihood of electrical metering regulation.
In the United States there a discernible trend to such regulation, with the National Electricity Manufacturers Association (NEMA) actively promoting the adoption of consistent standards.
Plan for Today and Tomorrow...and Save Money
When planning a project that requires metering or monitoring, property managers and building owners need to keep an eye on both today and tomorrow — making sure they understand current requirements, but keeping in mind what the future might hold for meter regulation.
Taking this approach avoids wasted start up effort and costs and also eliminates the need to replace equipment that might not meet regulations in the future. The premium on price for a regulated meter versus a non-regulated meter is relatively small — often overwhelmed by other project costs such as installation and commissioning by a certified electrical contractor.
Electricity is a valuable and constrained resource. The best incentive for conservation is paying for use. In an ever-growing number of jurisdictions, billing can only happen if consumption is measured by a regulated meter. In the absence of regulation, it should be anticipated that metering legislation will eventually occur — so using a metering product that already meets the requirements makes sense for both today and tomorrow.