WR-ALC Initiatives: Energy savings through metering Published Oct. 30, 2009 By Ed Drohan 78 ABW/PA ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- When most people see their home electric bills start to rise, they start looking a little closer at things like turning off lights when they're not needed to help keep those costs down. A new initiative at Robins is looking for the same results, but on a grander scale. When you have an electric bill in excess of $20 million each year, savings can be very grand indeed. The 78th Civil Engineer Squadron has been installing electric meters in select buildings around the base - meters that, when fully operational, will allow facility managers and unit leaders to track their organization's energy consumption on a real-time basis. By tracking energy usage trends, informed decisions can be made that will reduce both usage and costs, said Kevin Smagh, Warner Robins Air Logistics Center Financial Management director. Mr. Smagh and 78th Air Base Wing Vice Commander Debra Bean co-chair the team that's making this project a reality. "Metering and monitoring consumption data, then providing feedback, with a goal of reduction in consumption where it can be achieved, will provide people the information necessary to make tradeoff choices," Mr. Smagh said. "We trust in the judgment of our folks at Robins to act on the useful data metering provides." An example, Mr. Smagh said, would be a unit adjusting its schedule to do work that is consumes large amounts of electricity to the mornings or evenings in the summer, when energy costs spike in the afternoon. Savings realized will help in several ways. "First, we are expecting leaner budgets in future years, so this is a step in the direction of helping to live within our means," Mr. Smagh said. "Second, savings that can be invested in additional energy savings equipment has the potential to perpetuate our success." The meters being installed are on the leading edge of technology, said Paul Kelley, 78th CES director. "These are Automated Meter Reading Systems, and once they're fully stood up, they can be read from any computer on the .mil system," Mr. Kelley explained. "The customer will be able to go into the system and get their consumption any time they want." Of the 500-plus meters the squadron has on-hand, 321 have so far been installed in buildings around the base. The meters are connected to phone lines that transmit data to software that will not only allow consumers to look at their individual readings, but will also calculate the cost the unit would have paid for the energy and produce monthly "bills." In some cases - such as where land lines are not available - the civil engineers are using cell phones to transmit the data. The bills are primarily for informational purposes since the base pays one bill for everyone each month, Mr. Smagh said. That is one thing that will not change with the new system. Mr. Kelley said the squadron has been working since 2005 to install the meters, and units have been getting bills for some time, but many of those were estimated because it wasn't feasible to get out and read every meter every month and manually calculate the cost information. Once the new system is completely up and running, the software will do all the work, making accurate billing a reality. The last part of the project that has to be worked out, Mr. Kelley said, is the security of the system people will access to gather their data. Air Force Material Command headquarters is working with the squadron to iron out those issues, although the squadron hopes to be able to get the system online by next month. Once security issues are solved, users will be able to access their real-time energy consumption information through the Geobase system. While metering is becoming a reality throughout the federal government because of several pieces of legislation mandating it, Mr. Smagh said this is an exciting time for Team Robins. "Metering provides us the opportunity to make improvements toward reduced energy consumption," Mr. Smagh said. "I'm excited to see the results our folks across the center will generate in terms of savings."