Schneider’s system can’t cut energy usage for every commercial building as well as it did in Le Hive. But the company does claim that it can reduce energy bills by an average of 30 percent. “It’s much more difficult to get from 65 [kilowatt-hours] to 50 than it is to get from 100 to 65,” says Pierre Tabary, Schneider Electric’s vice president of educational buildings and office buildings. “All the low-hanging fruit is gone.” But Schneider isn’t out of ideas. The next segment to tackle is in IT—computers and monitors plugged into wall sockets. The company hopes to eventually link that load to the control system so that employees’ PCs turn off automatically when they leave the room for extended periods.
Another plan is to introduce personalized energy dashboards for all building occupants so that each office worker, not just the facilities manager, will see energy consumption patterns in specific zones of the building. It is assumed that such information will encourage employees to reduce their individual energy use, assuming that their own comfort isn’t compromised.
Le Hive is a glimpse into the future of smart buildings. Schneider Electric is probably saving about 150,000 euros a year by reducing energy consumption at its headquarters from more than 300 kilowatt-hours per square meter to 65; at that rate the system would pay for itself within about three years. (The company wouldn’t share cost figures for the project, so the estimate comes from typical building automation and security costs of 10 euros per square meter, with a 25 percent premium built in for the extra features like the RFID security system.) While Schneider’s EcoStruxure can’t perform these wonders for every commercial building, the company does claim that it can reduce energy bills by an average of 30 percent for most clients, and by as much as 70 percent for some.
Sam Jaffe is a research manager for IDC Energy Insights.