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How data analytics helps firms improve their energy usage

When companies come to evaluate potential big data solutions, there are often a few key use cases they envisage the technology helping with. Often, these may include better targeted marketing campaigns, spotting emerging trends before they occur or forecasting the impact of new products and services.

But one area that big data is increasingly playing a role with – which may often be overlooked by businesses focused on growing their operations – is how the technology can help them get a grip on their everyday expenses such as energy, helping them to both cut costs and improve their carbon footprint.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in the last few years, the amount of information organisations have on their use of power has exploded. In the past, insight into this often did not go much beyond simple observations, such as use of air conditioners increasing on hot days. 

But now a wealth of sensors give firms all the details they could ever need, and the greater availability of big data analytics tools to turn this information into useful insight has also changed the way companies think about their energy.

One sector that is taking advantage of this is retail – particularly large firms that operate many stores that may all be different in terms of size, building type and location, whichs mean they will all have unique energy requirements. But by using big data and real-time analytics, companies can gain instant insight into what is going on throughout their organisation and take the necessary steps to improve their performance.

Elsewhere, the General Services Administration (GSA), which manages the buildings of the US federal government, also turned to big data to evaluate energy use in some of its largest buildings – like the 4.1 million sq ft Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.

Brian Wright, senior mechanical engineer at the body, explained that preparing a report on the facility using traditional methods took vast amounts of time, and the 150-page reports were overwhelming for building managers. But since adopting big data tools, evaluation costs have been cut by 90 per cent, saving the GSA $13 million a year, while the organisation has instant access to detailed information at the click of a mouse.