26 Spectacular Software Features for Stellar Energy Managers

Chris Heinz - January 28, 2014

It’s okay to admit it--energy management is hard. But that's where software can help. Good software can help a little. Spectacular software can help a lot.

It's an elementary lesson that having the right tools can mean the difference between mediocre performance and stellar performance. But if it's so elementary, why is the world filled with mediocre performances?

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Instead, we want you to be stellar. 

Here are 26 spectacular software features for stellar energy managers, in alphabetical order. (What's more elementary than that?).

 

A - Accounts Payable Interface

Software that interfaces with your accounting system creates a "smart" front end to your A/P or G/L system. You can export audited and approved bill records for final processing and payment, which eliminates double entry of billing data.

B - Bill Audits

You can't catch every billing mistake, so audits verify utility bill accuracy and spot problems. Helpful audits find bills with excessively high or low usage, missing bills, and abnormal dates. A great audit system allows you to form audit groups, perform quick check audits, and automate bill checking and can also be run on meter data, time-series data, and budgets.

C - Chargebacks & Submetering

Mandatory for campuses like higher education and military bases, chargebacks and submetering enable you to enter or import submeter readings to create chargeback "invoices" for customers, other departments, or tenants for reimbursable and self-supporting activities. Also, create visual basic virtual accounts based on complex formulas.

D- Dashboard

Spectacular software includes a configurable dashboard with performance charts and graphs on your home page. This way you can easily view the key performance indicators that matter most to you.

E - ENERGY STAR Benchmarking

ENERGY STAR's Portolio Manager has become a standard for building energy benchmarking. Interface to Portfolio Manager to automatically obtain ENERGY STAR energy efficiency ratings for your buildings. There are many benefits of tracking your building in ENERGY STAR

F - Forecasts & Budgets

Forecasts and budgets help you create meter-by-meter, building-by-building granular budgets that can be rolled up for any level of the organization, modified, and used for reporting. You should be able to create any number of budgets (actual, best case, worst case) based on historical bills, forecast expected costs, usage, and unit costs. 

G - Greenhouse Gas Tracking

If you're already tracking your energy, then tracking your greenhouse gas emissions is easy. Measure carbon footprint and report GHG emissions via standard reports and trend charts at any level of your organization.

H - Historical Bill-Based Accruals

In order to improve accounting, create estimated bills (accruals) based on historical bills in order to close out an accounting period. Then you can export accrued bills to the General Ledger and reverse the accrued transactions after the actual bill is received.

I - Issue Tracker

Great software includes a work order system that tracks, reports, emails, and manages savings opportunities and problems. You can run issue-based reports, classify problem types, assign personnel to problems, track associated usage and cost, and store field notes on the status of the issue.

J - Just the Data You Want

If you want to design and export an ad-hod report, you should be able to do so. Build your own spreadsheets according to your needs and export in a variety of formats. Report with comprehensive filter options on fields in the database.

K - Keep All Bill Details

You want to track every line item on your utility bill? No problem! Spectacular software tracks any commodity, level and type of bill detail including standard and deregulated bills (separate LDC/supplier charges). Also, track any commodity (electric, natural gas, propane, oil, water, sewer, steam, refuse, recycling, telecom, etc.) and any number of accounts, meters, bills, and bill details.

L - Lots of Trend Graphs, Benchmarking Charts, Reports

View and analyze utility data from a large library of informative and easy-to-understand reports from categories like: analysis, billing, budget, cost avoidance, ENERGY STAR, greenhouse gas, invoice, production, weather, and year-to-year. Reports ought to export to Excel, PDF, HTML, and other formats, and be customizable through various filtering options.

M - Measurement & Verification

Measurement & Verification (or Cost Avoidance) calculates the savings attributable to energy management by comparing current bills with a normalized baseline year. The "whole building method" establishes a baseline year, adjusts the baseline through current conditions, and then subtracts today's actual bills.

N - Normalization & Calendarization

Normalization and Calendarization help you compare month-to-month and year-to-year utility bills on a common “apples-to-apples” basis. Normalization inserts a single year’s weather (degree days) into each year of utility bill data in order to provide valuable year-to-year weather adjusted usage comparisons. Calendarization "smoothes out" utility bill usage and cost data by allocating it to the appropriate calendar month.

O - Online

You're in a mobile society, so your software ought to be mobile, too. Access your secure energy software from anywhere via Web browser and Internet connection. Work in an office, work on the go, it shouldn't matter.

P - Project Tracking

Great utility bill tracking software reports the energy and cost savings from your energy management projects. It organizes the projects you are implementing at a building or site and tracks the types of projects, start and completion dates, cost of the installation, rebate information, and the energy and cost savings from the project.

Q - Quick Account Code Lookup

Quickly find accounts, cost centers, and bills using the search function. As your entry is typed, live search results are displayed to match entry. Can't remember the details? No problem.

R - Receiving Electronic Bills

Data entry isn't the only way to get data in. Receiving electronic bills from utility vendors in EDI or in spreadsheet (flat file) formats may be perfect for your organization. Importing electronic data into your software could save time and money. "Official" EDI data isn't the only type of electronic data.

S - Split bills

Do you want to split bills by percentages for shared or unmetered facilities? With the right software, no worries! Bill splits can be performed according to specifications like percentage of square footage, submeter readings, or other complex formulas. Actual bills are split into "virtual bills" for reports and General Ledger chargebacks.

T - Time-Series (Interval) Data

Import and analyze meter interval data (usually 15, 30, or 60-minute intervals) for detailed energy consumption analysis. This is helpful to spot inefficiencies, apply for demand response programs, or shop for better rates.

U - Use vs. Weather

For calendarized and normalized data, the usage of weather sensitive meters is adjusted based on daily degree day data. How do you know when a meter is weather sensitive? A statistical process correlates the usage on each bill with the corresponding degree days in the billing period.

V - View-only or Other User Permissions

Spectacular software allows for different types of user permissions such as view-only or view-only on certain assets through user roles. Each user has a login name, password, and list of accessible menus and features. Users can be limited to individual buildings, departments or organizational levels.

W - Workflow Management

The user-configurable workflow settings give you control over various processes in the software. Design the workflow that works best with your business process including the features you may use in the software such as: batch mode, approval mode, Accounts Payable Export mode, General Ledger Export mode, Bill entry audits, and optional bill header fields.

X - Xpense Recovery for Rental Units

For rental properties, vacant units are a headache for building managers. Great energy management software provides easy management of vacant accounts and addresses the issue of residents switching the utility into their name in a timely manner.

Y - Your Organization’s Heirarchy

No matter how complex your organization is, your software should be able to model your physical layout and accounting layout through a user-friendly hierarchical structure. Set user permissions to limit access to data on an individual basis.

Z - ZIP Code, Station Code, or City-based Weather Data

Trend and analyze weather data and the impact on energy usage. Track average daily temperature for any number of weather stations. Degree days are automatically calculated and charted for quick year-to-year comparisons.

You deserve spectacular software to help you be stellar. Why settle for less?

Need to create an RFI/RFP? Download the template today!

Topics: Energy Management

Chris Heinz

About the Author
Chris Heinz

Chris is Vice President of Human Resources for EnergyCAP, Inc., which helps organizations get value from their utility bills through energy management software. He's an Associate Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation, a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, and a Certified Professional Life Coach. He also started www.Munyay.com to help people love their life and love their work.

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