There is a lot to be said and learned about the electric utility industry and, more specifically, its deregulation. A facility engineer must follow this movement in order to form utility procurement strategies in the coming years. It's a must.

For the facility engineer who finds much of this utility jargon mystifying, here is a simple first step and strong suggestion: Retro-commission your energy-consuming equipment and systems while you work to get the most for your utility dollar in the post-deregulation world.

Compact Or Gas-guzzler?

What's the point of saving money by buying inexpensive gas if you're putting it in a gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle (SUV) that hasn't been tuned up since you bought it? This SUV is still wasting energy. Its only saving grace is that it's running on cheaper gas.

This analogy mirrors the need for a strategic utility procurement plan that includes tuning up your energy-consuming equipment and systems. Deregulation and retro-commissioning will go hand-in-hand in the years to come.

The retro-commissioning part of your plan should begin with benchmarking building energy performance. Just as an automobile owner's manual must contain performance criteria with a tuned-up engine (i.e., X-amount mpg), so should buildings have such documentation. An integral part of building evaluation and facility assessment has been to include energy-operating cost analysis as part of the project.

Drawing upon design engineering and facility engineering experience, I have created my own, comprehensive database for energy benchmarks. I also draw upon other reference sources, including BOMA and IFMA, for energy benchmarking information relative to the commercial office building industry.

Unfortunately, the industrial, college-university, and health care communities do not provide the same depth of recordkeeping information when compared to these two commercial-based associations. The DOE and ASHRAE also provide benchmarking information, but again, I think their information is limited.

With deregulation and the need to retro-commission building systems, these resources will need to become more detailed if they are to be valuable to facility engineers and building managers.

Tune Up, Turn On

Collecting data on your buildings, and the systems within those buildings, is essential to making well-informed energy-buying decisions. This data may be inaccurate, however, if the individual doing the survey has not taken into account the possibility that the building may not be tuned up. This error can have an impact on annual Btuh/sq ft and cost/sq ft estimates, and thus on your overall plan to achieve maximum utility efficiencies.

If building energy benchmarks appear to be out of line for the type of building application, then retro-commissioning may be the answer. To retro-commission, the facility's utility bills over the last two years or more will need to be compiled and presented on an annual energy-use graph. Overlaid on this graph should be the weather data for those years, in order to compare energy consumption to degree days.

Annual energy consumption should rise and fall with the total heating and cooling degree days. If degree days drop from one year to the next and energy consumption does not drop, it is possible that building systems are not operating at peak performance. The most notable of these systems will be hvac.

With this type of visual aid, the facility manager can begin to see whether retro-commissioning will be needed to maximize energy consumption at that site.


A strategic utility procurement plan that includes tuning up your energy-consuming equipment - and retro-commissioning, if necessary - can yield major benefits when deregulation reaches your state.

Remember that the next time you gas up your vehicle.