AUT saves $100,000 on electricity during lockdown

AUT has cut electricity use in half during lockdown, by assessing and eliminating any unneccesary energy usage in unused buildings. Thanks to their hard work, they have saved over $100,000 on their electricity bill.

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AUT has managed to cut electricity use in half during lockdown – by assessing their energy usage of unused buildings, and eliminating all unnecessary energy expenditure. Under level 3 of the COVID-19 lockdown, they used the BMS control systems of each building to turn off air conditioning - as students and staff began to leave in anticipation of lockdown. After level 4 was in effect and full lockdown commenced, they were able to look at the daily electricity load profiles and target buildings that were still running HVAC systems and other mechanical plant.

Every day unnecessary uses of energy were identified and shut down, until only essential building services were consuming energy - fire protection, security systems and lighting were left running, and ICT servers and equipment remained on to ensure staff and students could still access online university resources. Although considerable energy was saved through these measures, essential energy requirements like running the IT servers, running PC’s so students can log in, and the minimal air conditioning requirements to keep server rooms cool are the biggest consumers of energy that remain.

The result of these efforts was a 51% reduction in electricity consumption for April 2020 compared with April 2019, a saving of 756,674 kWh. The electricity bill for April 2019 was $237,000, as compared with the electricity bill for April 2020 which was only $111,463 – a saving of $126,429.

The lockdown has illustrated to the team at AUT the importance and ease of minimising unnecessary energy costs during times of shut down. While the baseload of an unused building is generally low, pieces of equipment or systems are often left running that can, in most cases, easily be switched off to conserve both energy and electricity costs during times of disuse.

There are three key takeaways from AUT’s success that can be applied by other businesses looking to save energy costs during periods of shutdown:

  • Easy energy savings can be made by using BMS systems to turn off unnecessary lights and HVAC systems
  • There are many consumers of energy that won’t be picked up on until you walk through each floor to identify them and turn them off individually
  • These two steps should be followed up by frequently looking at the electricity load consumption profiles for each building to ensure nothing has been missed or that energy consuming equipment has not restarted due to BMS programming errors.


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