As the old axiom says, you can’t improve what you can’t measure.
Up until a few years ago, the utility bills paid by National Bank of Arizona fell firmly into the “unmeasured” category. The bank’s central accounting department simply received and paid all utility bills on behalf of the bank’s 70 plus branches statewide. The department tracked utility costs as a single expense for each site, with no itemization of electric, natural gas, water, and so on. There was simply a utility cost center. The breakdown of dollars spent – or insight into how they might be spent more wisely – was anyone’s guess.
Beyond bill pay, management of issues with utilities happened only by exception or happenstance. Perhaps an accounting clerk noticed the overall utility costs were rising inexplicably at a specific site, or a utility company happened upon an anomaly and alerted the bank. In either hit-and-miss case, solving the mystery typically required a labor-intensive, manual drill-down on the site-level problem.
Perhaps more troubling was the lack of insight the bank had into its energy costs and the ability to control them. Without an efficient means of year-over-year comparisons and analysis of specific utilities by locations, budget forecasting was cumbersome and it was difficult to identify savings opportunities. National Bank of Arizona needed a way to understand its energy use, and it needed access to their data in order to drive strategic energy savings and performance improvement.
A PLATFORM FOR RESPONSIBLE ENERGY CONSUMPTION
National Bank of Arizona SVP and Corporate Properties Manager Dennis Calik knew there had to be a better way. While talking energy management with a colleague at a 2009 banking facilities forum, he was introduced to Ecova.
Upon his return from the conference, Calik met with Ecova, and soon started its Expense and Data Management solution. With this solution, Ecova gathers usage and expenditure data from across the entire bank’s portfolio, turning that data into specific, strategic insight for the bank to increase operational efficiency, reduce costs, and set sustainability performance standards.
Calik, Assistant VP of Corporate Properties Jason King, and Ecova spent several months gathering the entire prior years’ worth of utility invoices for each location to create a baseline from which it could begin measuring performance. Then, the bank turned over to Ecova all responsibility for utility payment and data management.
Ecova’s simple-to-navigate reporting interface allows Calik and King to compare year-over-year data, providing them visibility into consumption trends down to the specific meter level. This data has laid the groundwork for a comprehensive and proactive energy management strategy.
SUSTAINABILITY INITIATIVES HINGES ON THE DATA
Ecova’s Expense and Data Management solution has enabled the bank to make wise energy savings and sustainability decisions. When the bank was approached with an opportunity to install solar power panels at its corporate headquarters, analysis enabled by Ecova was a key to making the right decision. Calik says that with Ecova’s help, the team was able to determine:
- How much energy the $1.5 million solar initiative would produce
- How much of the cost would be covered by government rebate funding and tax credits
- How quickly the bank would realize a return on the investment
“We were able to demonstrate to senior management that the majority of the cost would be mitigated by credits, tax breaks, and rebates,” says Calik.
“Ecova’s data provided business intelligence to secure approval by demonstrating that the $373,000 end-of-the-day price tag for the project would quickly pay for itself.”
Additional solar energy projects, lighting retrofits and upgrades to HVAC systems followed quickly. Calik and King credit the Ecova reporting platform with providing the data to support these decisions, laying the foundation for what will become a comprehensive sustainability initiative. “Without Ecova showing us what we were expending and consuming, we couldn’t possibly have shown senior management exactly how much money we would save,” says King. “Now, as soon as a change like this is made, we can measure it the following month.”
ENERGY DATA MANAGEMENT ENABLES EFFICIENT ANOMALY RESOLUTION
With its newfound, visibility into meter-level energy consumption, quick problem resolution drives further value for National Bank of Arizona. “I recently received a report that indicated an 187% increase in electricity expense at one of our branches,” says King. The facility in question had been overhauled with state-of-the-art lighting, HVAC, and energy controls the previous year;
“Within a couple of clicks in our Ecova interface, I was able to identify when the power company had installed a faulty meter at the site,” he explains. “That, combined with historical consumption data including virtual copies of past invoices, provided a case for a credit from the power company.”
In another instance, King says Ecova alerted the bank to a higher-than-normal consumption of natural gas at a branch location. “We quickly isolated the problem to a gas leak on a rooftop HVAC unit,” says King. In still another case, Ecova reported excess water use at a remote desert location, which led to the discovery of a broken landscape line. “Without alerts and detail we get from Ecova, these issues might have gone on for months.”
Calik says the internal efficiencies gained by the shift in the utility management burden have also been palpable. “Our accounting department doesn’t even have to touch this stuff now, freeing them up to work on tasks more relevant to their jobs and beneficial to the bank,” he says. “Energy management has become more complex, and with that complexity comes opportunity. My ability to control rates might be limited, but I have unlimited opportunity to forecast, budget, and manage consumption thanks to the data that Ecova empowers us with.”