An energy accounting system will help you compile, analyze, and report energy usage and cost. Those using such systems often find them a cost-effective way of keeping an eye on their energy "stores." Various types of software and services have been around for years to handle this task.

Changes to utility metering, deregulation, and demand response programs have blurred the differences between systems that compile and analyze monthly energy bills and those that take and act on hourly meter data.

Is Accounting Worth the Time?

What you pay for energy can determine how much time and energy you should spend on a good accounting of energy use, but any facility with a dozen or more electric meters and/or accounts will probably find that it will pay for itself when one billing error or equipment failure is highlighted by such software.

For a good (though slightly dated) review of energy accounting methods and options, download a handbook by the California Energy Commission at: www.energy.ca.gov/reports/efficiency_handbooks/ index.html.

The Big Three

Three PC-based programs dominated this market in the 1990s. In the last two years, all have undergone major changes.

FASER was originally created in 1980 by Omni-Comp, which was acquired by Enron in 1997. Due to Enron's bankruptcy and massive layoffs, FASER's viability is in question.

Metrix was first offered in 1996 by SRC Systems, which was bought in 2000 by Silicon Energy. Parts of Metrix were combined into Silicon's EEM Suite of programs, and Metrix is now sold only by third-party vendors.

In April 2001, rights to the Utility Manager (also known as Z Power) were sold to Xcel Energy, which has left the Utility Manager website "under construction" for the last year. Third-party vendors still provide the program under the Utility Manager name, or as Z Power.

Energy Accounting Going Through Changes

While PC-based software remains available, several new programs are available solely through websites, with no software resident on customers' screens. In other cases, the energy accounting and energy management functions have been merged in BMS programs, or through software that works with existing BMS programs. All of these new programs vary in their capabilities and costs.

Finding An Appropriate System

One size does not fit all. Before you start shopping, set down some criteria for what you need, want, would love to have, and are willing to spend. Software from the "Big Three" typically ranged from about $2,500 to $5,000, but the new programs vary from a few dollars/meter/month (for Web-based software) to $30,000 (or more) for versions with lots of bells and whistles. For a good list of criteria to consider, go to www.energybuyer.org and click on the January 2002 "Tip of the Month."

Places To Shop

Links for many energy accounting software sites/services may be found at: www.slider.com/Computers/Software/Industry_Specific/Energy_Management_2.htm. While not an exhaustive listing, it offers a glance at some of the options. But don't overlook the obvious: Energy service providers (e.g., utilities, retail power marketers, controls firms, meter vendors, engineering consultants) may also be helpful. Other building managers are also usually happy to chat about how they handle this task.

Below, find energy accounting products (in no particular order) that you may wish to pursue, with the understanding that this industry is in flux. Inclusion or exclusion of any product does not indicate endorsement or criticism, nor does listing indicate availability.

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