Let’s start with a quick analogy. Imagine you’re in charge of a lovely seaside town, but you have a litter problem – bloody day-trippers! You quickly realise the answer is more bins. So, you put together a tender document asking for quotes for one hundred new bins.
The quotes come in and you pick the one that seems to offer the best value. Fast forward a week, the bins are delivered and the litter problem disappears. However, three weeks later, reports start coming in that the litter is back. What’s gone wrong?
You launch an investigation and it turns out there are a number of problems. It turns out the anti-seagull/fox lids aren’t working very well and because the bins weren’t fixed down some of them are in the wrong place or missing all together. Nightmare! If only you had insisted on a proper maintenance contract, you’d have rubbish in and rubbish out.
Look beyond installation
It’s tempting to see the installation of utility meters in the same way. You have a problem – you need more data on your gas/electricity/water use. (This is a real issue as more businesses and organisations will soon be required to provide detail on their carbon footprint in order to comply with government future net zero commitments. (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-enshrines-new-target-in-law-to-slash-emissions-by-78-by-2035 ) Solution – you find a supplier who’ll put in meters at the right places for a decent price and it goes down as capital expenditure (capex).
The problem probably won’t appear as quickly as overflowing bins, but never fear, a few months or a year down the line, you’ll have problems. First, your data is full of holes and not as accurate as you’d hoped for. Next, the cash and carbon footprint savings you’d been promised don’t materialise. Finally, your boss is wondering if you have any idea what you are doing because in terms of data, all you’ve managed to achieve is rubbish in, rubbish out.
How did this happen? After all, it’s not as if your meters are being attacked by rogue seagulls, foxes or day-trippers. Quite easily. meters are boarded over; buildings are refurbished, they occasionally break, particularly mechanical ones; connections are damaged; essential parts are removed and not put back – you get the picture.
Change your mindset
The first lesson to pass on is to remember you are not buying meters and sub-meters, you are buying robust data. Such schemes are not asset projects, they’re a service. Energy managers and facilities managers can’t do their jobs without accurate information and that means you need to do everything you can to ensure the data is spot on, not just on day one but in Year 2 as well. That means regular audits and maintenance.
The second lesson is to make sure the purchasing team know it’s a service contract, otherwise when the year 2 bill turns up you have an interesting discussions/argument trying to get the money for a service which is not in anyone’s budget. That’s why it makes sense to factor in the price of a maintenance contract with your installation costs. Yes, it’s dull but if you don’t do it, you’re wasting your time and money.