By Alex Loijos
Choosing the right energy management system for a company can be difficult, because there is so little information available, and so many software options to pick from. For most businesses, changing their supplier is enough, but a typical business electricity bill is still on the increase. Those companies that also need to compare business gas prices are also finding the average kWh slowing increasing over time.
Many companies fall back and ask their energy broker to intervene and find solutions for them, but most won't know all options available.
Therefore, I did some careful research in hopes to find a one-stop, full-spectrum energy management software solution for every business. It turns out that every tool has its own strengths and weaknesses, and when making a choice it is key to understand how these capabilities match a company's needs. After learning so much, I thought to compile all my work and make it available to anyone who could benefit.
The following review covers the best and most popular tools on the market. I have cross-compared software features, examined product websites, and poured through feedback from enterprises that have implemented these systems. Each product is evaluated across several categories to make the reviews easier to digest. I've weighed the pros and cons of each system, highlighted their notable features, looked at their data, and made a definitive verdict.
We were looking for a one-stop EMS solution for every business, and here's what we found:
Overview: The UD Group (formally Utilities Direct) is a UK based market leading consultancy specialising in energy management, sustainability and multi-site outsourced services. The company was the first and remains the only business utility switching company to offer full online gas and electricity supplier switching. The comprehensive software capabilities include; Energy Management, Automated Invoice Validation, Asset Register and an Integrated Procurement Tool which operates with all suppliers across Multi Sites, SME's and Half Hourly Meters.
Pros: The UD Group enables businesses to access any reports they require regarding their energy usage, and the Energy Management software at The UD Group enables the company to access a fully detailed breakdown of energy consumption through the AMR Meter.
This hugely beneficial feature outlines real-time and precise information showing energy consumption every 30 minutes across all sites. A submeter breakdown is also included. The package is offered as both standalone and web version. The UD Group offers users with multiple sites a portal into single-site or aggregate information for monitoring performance and meeting internal targets.
Cons: The software is designed for larger energy users so it's not really suitable for the smaller business operating a smart meter on lower consumption volumes. The focus is on consumption management rather than sustainability and green issues, so the platform is not ideal if you are looking for a total sustainability and carbon strategy tool.
Notable Features: One of the stand out features at The UD Group is the Procurement Tool. It is fully integrated with all suppliers and can provide instant quotes. In addition, the Procurement Tool can be fully monitored for business by the team at The UD Group which maintains strong relationships with the energy providers. Invoice validation take as little as 6 seconds to complete which saves vast amounts of time. Demand Management at The UD Group means that customers can benefit from savings in cases such as being overbilled for their KVA.
Data: The advanced Energy Management Software The UD Group transforms complex information into easy to view and detailed graphs and tables which can be viewed on a monthly, weekly and even a 30-minute basis. This provides business with an easy to understand, specific breakdown of their energy consumption across their sites and the data can then be input via either the web portal or the company software.
Verdict: The UD Group offers a vast and flexible range of Software and the unique ability to easily switch suppliers. The advanced capabilities and complexity of The UD Group Energy Management Software ensures that it suits all business needs and can provide up to date, reliable and continuous data for all its customers across a large national and international multi-site span. The nature of the software would be most beneficial for medium to large sized business.
Overview: SAP is a company that creates a variety of modules to increase business productivity and reduce costs. One of their most recent projects is their energy management software. This module is specifically tailored to increase sustainability while increasing profits and streamlining processes.
SAP's energy management software allows a business to gather reports on energy use site by site or the entire enterprise. It is built to identify the best way to find and use cost-effective energy strategies, whether to make a company more green or for environmental compliance.
Pros: The biggest draw when it comes to SAP is that its data aggregation is superb, pulling together disparate energy data of all types and merging it with financial data for easy analysis. It also allows for data integration across all energy types and operational data sources.
Consumers can view data in real time or trends to quickly analyze how they're using their energy and where they can save. It's also really easy to share SAP data, which is a major benefit for companies with varied organizational structure. A company can integrate energy management with financial data by using SAP, which can help decrease environmental impact while lowering costs.
Cons: SAP products all suffer from one major problem: configuration. Even though most businesses could benefit by implementing SAP, using its interface is mandatory and many businesses have difficulty making the system work for them. For example, a study showed that even with professional consultant help, it was still difficult to configure SAP's ERP software. While SAP's energy management system is slightly more user friendly, it still falls short.
Notable Features: SAP allows multiple users to report and access data. It works with various source systems which allows for integrated data. It also allows the user to set reminders as to when a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) request is due, which can be forwarded to others by someone with access. It also has a large library of metrics which can help the user choose their social, environmental, and economic goals.
Data: SAP supports automated KPI data collections from various source systems and also allows manual collection from more than one contributor. It's possible to collect both qualitative and quantitative data on both flexible schedule or ad hoc requests from a variety of sources, such as customers, suppliers, stakeholders, and much more.
Verdict: If a business is already using SAP programs, SAP's energy management system is probably the best as it, unsurprisingly, works well with other SAP modules. SAP is also good for businesses that are unsure of what energy goals are best for their company, as it can help the user find goal metrics with its library. The real-time data is definitely a perk, as well as audit functionality. As long as a business is able to quickly adapt to a new interface, SAP is a great energy management system.
Overview: EnergyCAP is one of the oldest energy management systems and in many ways has set the bar for others.
They've been providing their software to users for over 30 years. They have 10 different features in their software that help businesses achieve their energy goals, including reducing billing errors, improving budgeting, identifying energy inefficiencies, and much more. EnergyCAP assists with choosing low-cost vendors, gives businesses a unified tool for submeter readings, and allows the user to compare different sites in order to identify which facilities are inefficient.
Pros: Originally, EnergyCAP was only marketed to big organizations, considering its big price tag. Now, it's offering EnergyCAP Express, which has all of the features of EnergyCAP, but is intended for companies without large IT resources. EnergyCAP has always made sure that support and updates are available as needed. There is also a 30-day trial for the web-based version, which means that companies shopping around for an energy management system can try before they buy.
Cons: Most of the features available with EnergyCAP are standard with almost every energy management system, even the lower-priced options. EnergyCAP is a more expensive product, due to its regular updates and complex features. Even with EnergyCAP Express, it may be more logical for a small business to use an energy management system that better fits into their budget. It is also Windows-only, so businesses running Apple or UNIX systems will have to look elsewhere.
Notable Features: EnergyCAP comes in two different packages marketed towards businesses, EnergyCAP enterprise and a cloud-based system called EnergyCAP Express. There are also web-based and traditional software versions of their products. EnergyCAP has features to take advantage of "Green Energy" credits and to gain Energy Star ratings on buildings.
Data: EnergyCAP Express uses cloud-based data storage, while EnergyCAP Enterprise uses traditional data storage. A business can upload utility data and get a detailed analysis. It's also possible to submit data directly to the Energy Star Portfolio Management program. Over 200 customizable reports and graphs can be generated for Excel, Access, or Crystal Reports.
Vedict: EnergyCAP is one of the leaders for a reason. Any business that can afford its price tag and can run it on their systems would probably be better off using it. It's flexible, provides all the necessary data points, and its complex analyses are top-of-the-line. Its regular updates (multiple annually) mean that compliance standards and algorithms are always up-to-date. That's not to say that EnergyCAP is for everyone, as there are better tools for companies that want more flexibility or more Green features.
Overview: Like the SAP's energy management system, Schneider Electric's PowerLogic ION EEM is meant to unite business and energy strategies. It focuses on looking at energy in financial terms, but can also be used to achieve environmental goals or to comply with green programs. Unlike SAP, it uses a web portal that a business can customize to see the data most important to the business in real time. It automatically uploads and cleans up energy data and helps in eventually predicting, controlling, and reducing energy-related expenses.
Pros: One of the major benefits of this energy management system is being able to customize the dashboard. Every contributor can set up their portal to show the data that is most important to them. The one-way integration with enterprise software is also a huge perk, as it allows a business to better track the overall impact of energy management, and exporting the data back out is easy. Sharing data with interested parties is very easy. Reports can be sent to their website and viewed by anyone via a standard browser.
Cons: The PowerLogic ION EEM is more focused on financial gains and losses. If a business is interested in reducing their environmental footprint over saving money, another energy management system might be more appropriate. The business software integration can also be overwhelming for companies that don't want or need it. Some companies may find it easier to use a cheaper, simpler energy management system.
Notable Features: The web capability of this energy management system is probably its strongest feature. This allows energy management on the go, rather than just in the office. Another key feature is the ability to manage other consumed utilities besides energy by important that data, on top of integrating with many enterprise system databases. It also has the capability to manage and analyze greenhouse gas information.
Data: With a powerful reporting engine, PowerLogic ION EEM can handle complex data and graphics, turning them into models and graphs for easier visualization. It can also import data from a variety of enterprise system databases, and export back out to them. Data can be controlled either through the software or the dashboard on the web portal.
Verdict: When looking at an integrated energy management system, PowerLogic ION EEM is a little bit more user-friendly than SAP. It doesn't have all the business functionality, but it's still a very powerful tool. The web-based dashboards allow for complete control and real time analysis on the go, which is a must for most top-level decision makers. Many institutions have chosen PowerLogic ION EEM, including the University of Texas at Austin because it's versatile and well put together.
Overview: Credit360 (now UL EHS Sustainability) is used by a variety of top companies, including Barclays and Swiss Re. Credit360 as an energy management system, is specifically geared towards forecasts and planning, so that businesses can work on energy reduction initiatives while understanding the impact it will have on their performance. They also received a gold standard certificate from the Carbon Disclosure Project, a non-profit organization working to promote sustainability.
Pros: This energy management system is all about helping a business become greener without cutting into profit. It allows for reporting inline with different agencies to achieve energy and carbon emissions compliance, reports on reduction initiatives, and has a built-in carbon factor management system. Credit 360 also provides a variety of training programs to help a business become acquainted with their software.
Cons: Credit360 is more about reducing a company's environmental footprint and less about increasing business productivity. It lacks a lot of the tools one would find in another energy management system, like more complex data analysis. It is capable of importing data from other enterprise reporting platforms, but simply isn't meant to integrate the way SAP or PowerLogic ION EEM can and doesn't have breadth of tools one would find in EnergyCAP.
Notable Features: The more prominent feature of Credit360 is its reporting, as a major part of its objective is to provide consumers with information on the company's environmental footprint. It also compensates for gaps in the data with sophisticated estimating techniques. Another bonus of Credit360 is that it doesn't just manage energy, it also collects data on carbon emissions.
Data: Credit360 gathers real time information from meters and automatically tracks high impact areas. It is able to import data on carbon emissions and create carbon factor management goals as well as energy goals. Credit360 can also import energy information from existing enterprise reporting platforms.
Verdict: For a company that wants better transparency and to reduce their footprint, Credit360 is a flexible tool. But it's not very powerful as an energy management system, considering its single focus on green initiatives. Choosing another energy management system will give a business the bonus of meeting their environmental goals while focusing on slashing budgets and increasing productivity. The main reason to choose Credit360 is if a business is extremely interested in reporting their footprint to their customers, or if they're extremely concerned about carbon emissions.
Overview: What makes eSight different than another energy management system is that it's an entirely web-based software as a service (Saas) product, or can be installed on site. It also focuses on both small businesses and large enterprises, unlike many other systems which only target the latter. It boasts that it can reduce consumption, costs, and carbon emissions by up to 30%.
Pros: The web-based nature of eSight means that it can be accessed anywhere. For companies who aren't ready to invest in an energy management system, eSight also allows a subscription service, where businesses can choose a pay-as-you-go model with eSight's software as a service version. It is also a worldwide service, able to work with multiple currencies and local guidelines.
Cons: Tools to verify billing data are more basic and not provided with any type of associated service. eSight enables users to import data from virtually any hardware manufacturer or source data stream. In doing this, the system does not offer any controls, or vendor specific alignment.
Notable Features: eSight directly converts a company's consumption data into monetary units, making it easier to digest. One thing that really sets it apart is its ability to set up a revenue contract, which is meant to be used in tenant billing.
Data: eSight is specifically set up to handle contracts, with regards to energy consumption. It focuses heavily on calculating tariff details, including calculating variations at up to 1-minute intervals. It can do invoice validation when it has imported financial data to run against it.
Verdict: It's hard to tell if eSight will actually make good on cutting energy consumption by 30%, but it does have a variety of tools that can help a company manage their billing and contract information. There isn't a lot of energy management system software that is marketed as global, with so many of them being US-based, so using eSight would be perfect for an international company. The pay-as-you-go model and focus on small businesses might appeal to some who can't afford the initial investment in an energy management system.
Overview: JouleX is an energy management system that monitors, analyzes, and controls energy usage of any devices connected to a network, without a client-side agent or hardware meters. JouleX advertises that their customers reduce their energy costs by up to 60% and comes in a variety of different packages for different types of businesses.
Cisco acquired the JouleX systems in November 2013.
Pros: JouleX is set up so that power can be managed automatically and remotely, which means that once it's in action, it can be mostly hands-off. It has trademarked Load Adaptive Computing and Networking, which alters capacity depending on demand throughout the entire network. It also takes into account a company's need to become sustainable as well as increase profits with its Sustainable Procurement practices.
Cons: Getting to the point where JouleX practically runs on its own can take some time, so it's not a magic bullet. This energy management system is also more focused on businesses with heavy server loads and large data centers, rather than looking at the management techniques factories or other non-office oriented businesses could utilize.
Notable Features: JouleX is constantly adding new features and has claimed many industry firsts, like device support for computer room air conditioning, rack and floor power distribution units, and uninterruptible power supplies. It was also the first energy management system to support all the top power management networking vendors, like Cisco, Intel, and VMware. But what sets JouleX apart is its ability to measure dynamic energy consumption as well as how any device attached to the network is being utilized, making it easy to optimize energy use and reduce waste.
Data: On top of its amazing ability to integrate, as noted above, JouleX is optimized for both virtualization and cloud computing. It supports demand response programs, including IT equipment. It provides corporate sustainability reports for better company transparency and customized internal reports with detailed analysis to identify power hogs and poor utilization, and suggests solutions to resolve them.
Verdict: For any tech company or office environment, JouleX is probably one of the best picks for an energy management system. Time and time again, JouleX has put their money straight back into improving their software, adding features, and claiming industry firsts. It may seem like a big leap to go after the new guy, but JouleX was so innovative that they were picked up by Cisco for $107 million. For anyone who is a Cisco EnergyWise this would be a wise purchase, as after the purchase, JouleX put out a special build for EnergyWise users.
Overview: C3 is another energy management system that markets itself to enterprises and small businesses, but even has a residential version. It allows for real-time insight that pulls together incredibly varied sets of data and creates a cohesive energy management strategy out of them. It is focused on both supply-side and demand-side operations. By using smart grid analysis, C3 helps businesses as a comprehensive demand response tool by calculating the full value of shifting energy usage, including the impact it can have on a company.
Pros: C3 is very user-friendly and generates accessible information that makes business decisions easier. It also supplies recommendations to help businesses of all sizes not just save energy, but also gain access to rebates.
Cons: C3 is another SaaS module, which means that it suffers from the same security concerns as eSight. It's also incredibly new, so while it's up-to-date, there's not a lot of product history to rely on. While it's user-friendly, it lacks some of the more sophisticated tools one might find in a more complicated program like EnergyCAP.
Notable Features: The ability to put together "disparate data" as C3 puts it is probably one of the strongest features of the energy management system. It looks at a lot more variables than some other systems might. By separating supply-side and demand-side analytics, C3 makes it easier for some companies to understand their energy management. This system is specifically built to help companies take advantage of their smart grid investment.
Data: C3 is a software as service program, which means that it runs in most standard browsers. There is even a mobile version, specifically tailored for the iPad. C3 has a large library of rebate options, which when paired with its ability to make suggestions as to how to achieve the goals necessary to meet the rebate standards, is a powerful tool.
Verdict: It's hard to tell if C3 is going to take off or if it's going to fall short as an energy management system. It might be a wise choice for a small business or a residential owner, but choosing a more established energy management system is probably a wiser move, considering C3 doesn't seem to have many features that are unique. Over time, C3 might come into its own, but for now, there are better alternatives.
Overview: When Hara came onto the market in 2009, the founder said that it was designed for the "post-carbon economy era." Hara is now marketed as both an energy management system and a sustainability tool, and was backed with Al Gore's support. The hosted software application allows enterprises to organize and monitor their water and fuel consumption on a basic dashboard in order to lessen their environmental impact and maintain profits.
Verisae acquired Hara in October 2013.
Pros: Hara doesn't just support electricity, it also looks at travel fuel consumption, GHG emissions, and water use. Its interface is extremely user-friendly and breaks down the various types of output in easy to digest terms. It measures the "payback periods" of different environmental projects, as well as letting a company keep tabs on the status of them.
Cons: The CEO of Hara left SAP in order to build the start up, and it shows in that Hara is completely unlike the other module. But while Hara is easy to use, it may too simplistic of an energy management system for some. Its primary focus is on sustainability, which means that companies looking for a cut and dry analysis of how to best allocate their energy resources in order to maximize profit may want to shop around first.
Notable Features: One cool thing about Hara is that a company can set up their dashboard with an RSS feed, keeping company and industry news close by as they monitor sustainability. The Project Manager is also an incredibly powerful tool for companies trying to gain rebates or meet green standards. Companies looking for an energy management system can try out Hara free for 30 days.
Data: Hara generates reports for both internal and external stakeholders which can be exported to Excel or CSV. The reports are highly customizable, choosing the range, the activity type, the unit type, and the country. Hara has a search capability to easily find supplier and billing data. This energy management system is a cloud-based software platform, meaning it's another SaaS.
Verdict: Hara definitely works, considering major corporations like Coca-Cola have adopted it, but it's very simple. This may be a plus for some companies, but for others it might be a drawback. It takes the best ideas from SAP and reorganizes them around sustainability, so if that is a company's goal, it's definitely worth trying the 30 day no-guarantee period. If a company is looking for a more traditional energy management system, they might want to look elsewhere first.
Overview: This are actually three different products, CA ecoGovernance, CA ecoMeter, and CA ecoDesktop. CA ecoGovernance is has what you'd expect from an energy management system; it allows you to measure and analyze energy as well as carbon, water, and waste, while focusing on corporate social responsibility initiatives. CA ecoMeter specifically focuses on managing data centers and clouds, as well as power and cooling, in order to increase IT agility. CA ecoDesktop reduces wasted energy by managing desktop and PC power consumption.
Pros: Being able to specifically pick which programs you want can help businesses that are looking for a very specific kind of energy management system. CA Technologies' products don't require any more modules to run, which means it's one-stop shopping. CA ecoGovernance does a good job of combining sustainability and an energy management software, not sacrificing flexibility, data, or analysis.
Cons: An energy management system like JouleX combines the functionality of all three CA Technologies products, while having features like dynamic energy measurement. While CA ecoMeter doesn't require other architecture to run, its functionality is severely limited without EnergyWise products.
Notable Features: CA ecoGovernance works with more than energy, helping a company focus on carbon, water, and waste as well. It has web-based questionnaires to help access facilities and suppliers. CA ecoMeter is able to analyze and manage global data. CA ecoDesktop allows for remote forced adherence to power management policies, something you don't see often.
Data: CA ecoGovernance integrates with a variety of third-party ERP's, but they don't specify which ones. It processes sub-metered data, invoice data, and lifecycle analysis data. Data collection can be automated and KPIs can be tracked in real-time. All three products have some sort of mobile functionality, although the capability of the software is limited. The mobile functionality is more to allow monitoring on the road.
Verdict: CA Technologies has put some great sustainability software out there that combines Green initiatives and energy management. But beyond ecoDesktop, nothing really stands out about their programs. It's a flexible tool that could definitely help an enterprise save money and manage their social initiatives, but there are better programs out there.
While we were looking for the catch-all energy management system, what we learned is that there really isn't one. There is no "best-in-class." An enterprise should choose an energy management system based on its needs and what the software has to offer.
EnergyCAP, for example, is one of the top tools for handling more complex financial data. Companies who are looking to save money might be best off with it. But if a company is using SAP modules already, it could be far more powerful for them with its heavy integration. Companies that are looking for a powerful energy management system that's more user-friendly might want to try PowerLogic ION EEM.
If a company is heavy on servers, everything changes. JouleX might be best for a web-based company or data storage. CA Technologies covers some of the best advantages of JouleX though, with the option of modules that help companies adhere to PC usage policies. If a company has invested in the smart grid, C3 could provide them with the tools they need to take advantage of it. A global company could probably take advantage of eSight's international data focus.
And if a company is more focused on sustainability, there are so many good options. Credit360 sets the bar in some ways, with great transparency and a solid focus on Green technology. However, there's slightly more power behind Hara, considering the CEO came from SAP and wanted to merge the two technologies. Then there's Johnson Controls, which carefully tracks all data a company needs to look at in order to assess their carbon footprint.
Once a company has identified their goals, these reviews should set them in the right direction to see what energy management system is right for them.
About the author. Alex Loijos is an energy efficiency expert and has served many large manufacturing clients. He co-founded LinkCycle, which helps manufacturing companies save money using data science. The LinkCycle algorithms replace the need to install hardware meters or conduct audits of your facilities.