In fiscal year 2010-11, the University of California spent $281 million at its ten campuses and five medical centers on utilities such as natural gas, electricity and water, accounting for nearly half of the University’s total $582 million in operations and maintenance expenditures. The University has more than 5,000 separate utility accounts and thousands more campus sub-meters used to recharge individual departments. Utility usage is tracked on a campus-by-campus or department-by-department basis, obscuring the relationship between consumption with expense. Campuses use a variety of methods to track and recharge utilities, many of which are antiquated and unwieldy.
To modernize utility billing and provide consumers with a better understanding of their consumption patterns, UC’s Office of the President recommended and campus Vice Chancellors approved in 2008 the purchase of a systemwide utility database, EnergyCAP, with the understanding that campuses would cover the implementation costs.
So far one campus, UC San Francisco, has implemented EnergyCAP and now uses the system to manage its utility bills. Additionally five campuses and one medical center have begun implementation and are in various states of completion.
By implementing a systemwide utilities database, the University will harness its consumption data and provide a streamlined process for recharging and payment of utility bills. The systemwide database is expected to offer a variety of benefits, including:
• Bill Auditing: When linked with accounts payable, the database will enhance campuses’ and/or departments’ ability to monitor bills and consumption data for errors and irregularities.
• Bill Processing: EnergyCAP will streamline the process for paying utility bills at both the campus and systemwide level. The accounts payable process will be simplified by having all campuses able to use a single interface for electronic billing and payment.
• Benchmarking: A fully implemented utility database will track energy usage down to the building level. With building-by-building consumption data available, the University gains a better understanding of utility use by building type and can address over consumption in a timely manner.
• Budgeting: With a large database that takes into account the effects of weather and building usage, campuses will be able to generate more accurate budgets from year-to-year and integrate information from new and/or refurbished buildings more easily.
The initial implementation of EnergyCAP was as a systemwide import of utility bills directly from utility vendors. This import provided for the first time a comprehensive view of the University’s utility consumption and costs. A second import is in process that will provide critical utility data up to December 2011. During the course of the initial bill import it was discovered that the Irvine Medical Center had paid $300,000 more on their water bill than was due.
As the first implementer, UC San Francisco enjoys the administrative efficiencies of robust functionality. Utility data is centrally available to both the facilities department and its recharge clients. EnergyCAP streamlines an extremely complex billing process by automatically paying bills and recharging clients through the campus accounts payable system and calculating consumption and utility charges, including markups and line losses.
• It has been estimated that structured reviews of utility bills could save the University 1-2% of our annual energy bills. One important impetus for purchasing the EnergyCAP software was the potential cost savings from catching billing errors. For instance, a review of PG&E billings early on showed that campuses had paid $600,000 in taxes from which they are exempt. We also expect savings from being able to use Utility data to pinpoint when a particular building is using resources poorly (e.g. energy inefficiency), allowing us to prioritizing maintenance, retrofits and related projects to make timely improvements.
• Staff time will be saved and redirected by automating the accounts payable systems.