Measuring energy

   < < Go Back
from Fortune Magazine,

Points of light measured by a satellite with a hypersensitivespectroradiometer over multiple orbits and scans of the planet

Energy Points, a Boston company, had developed an algorithm it claimed [could help GREENDOT determine how much energy the MBTA was using for each task — given that it was using different sources of energy (fuel oil, natural gas, electricity)]. So last year Tim Lasker, the sustainability specialist for MBTA, fed three years’ worth of data on heating, cooling, electricity, waste, and water from the MBTA’s four oldest bus garages into EnergyPoints Analytics software — which translates the energy contained in various sources into a single common unit — and started asking hypotheticals. At the Quincy facility, an old horse-and-carriage garage built in the early 1900s, he learned the MBTA could save $112,121 and the energy equivalent of 29,561 gallons of gasoline in just one year by switching from fuel oil to natural gas for heat.

Energy Points uses 1.8 billion conversion factors to translate various energy units — mBTUs, kilowatt-hours — into an Energy Point, which is equivalent to one gallon of gasoline. Even the energy inherent in water and garbage can be expressed as an Energy Point. The company’s software, which is built on data mining and mathematical modeling, is sold both directly to businesses and licensed to consulting firms. Armed with one unifying metric, companies can more easily track their energy use and expenses, and compare the costs and benefits of resource-saving projects. “A gallon of gas is just a choice of convenience — people know what it is,” says Ory Zik, who co-founded Energy Points with Roy Stein. “The idea is to take complex networks of energy and make it simple and accurate.”

“Complex” is a bit of an understatement. Take electricity: A kilowatt-hour from a coal-burning power plant has a different carbon intensity than one generated by natural gas or at a wind farm. A gallon of water in the Northeast requires less energy to deliver than a gallon does in the Southwest. Energy Points accounts for those variables, helping firms understand their true energy consumption and cost from the source to the site.

Companies as diverse as Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, DuPont, and Disney already include a price on carbon in their long-term planning. While the words “carbon tax” are notoriously divisive, “energy productivity” is not. Neither is “saving money.”

More From Fortune Magazine: