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ERA's Environmental Compliance Management Blog

Another Environmental Data Management Case Study from Chattanooga

Posted by Alex Chamberlain

Alex Chamberlain is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.

Data automationWhenever Chattanooga appears in the news, we here at ERA perk up our ears. We've been powering the environmental management efforts of the Chattanooga Volkswagen Manufacturing facility for many years, and we love to point out all the awards the Chattanooga VW facility has won, including the 2012 Edison Green Award, and achieving LEED certification status. To top it all off, VW Chattanooga is getting a lot of attention for the Think Blue program.

So when the article "Smart Grid Saves Chattanooga Utility $1.4 Million During Storm" appeared on the popular blog Treehugger.com, it captured ERA's attention immediately.

You can read the article from Treehugger by following this this link.

It seems like Chattanooga is quickly becoming the place to find excellent case studies that demonstrate the fact that investing in smarter, greener technologies is not just environmentally repsonsible, it helps your wallet too.

"The utility had a 55 percent reduction in duration of outages, and the expedited restoration saved EPB Chattanooga $1.4 million."

That's a significant amount of money to save in a relatively short amount of time.

What's perhaps more important in this story, and something that should pique the interest of any data-savvy environmental managers is the fact that measuring these savings and calculating the ROI (return on investment) was only made possible by the ability to capture real time data automatically.

"When promoting the smart grid, a lot of focus tends to be on the money savings customers will receive and while that's certainly an incentive, the real payoff of smart grid technologies is in these distributed automated response systems and the ability for utilities to have real-time information and controls at their fingertips. It could make the difference between city-wide blackouts during heat waves and storms and just a few outages."

To any readers who keep up with ERA's writing on this blog and on other environmental management blogs like EHS Today or Environmental Leader, this concept should ring a few bells: we've written extensively about how having an automated data collection system like a Continuous Emissions Monitoring System (CEMS) can make the difference between falling out of compliance for a few hours versus paying noncompliance penalties for a whole week.

"Not only did the utility save a lot of money, but customers had to deal with fewer and shorter outages. According to Greentech Media, there were 58 million avoided minutes of customer interruption and for those that did suffer outages, power was restored 1.5 days sooner than it would have been before the smart grid roll out."

Now imagine if instead of a power outage, it was a breakdown of one of your control technologies that was keeping you in compliance. Anything that could warn you sooner, help you track fugitive emissions as they occured, and minimized down time could end up saving you thousands of dollars each hour.

It all boils down to this: if you want to save money on something, you need to manage it, and if you want to manage it you need to measure it. The better you get at measuring your inputs and outputs and the more efficiently you are able to capture data, the better your decision making process will be.

Getting data in real time means that you can actually make an informed decision to address and correct issues rather than react and do damage control after the fact

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Alex ERA

About the Author: Alex Chamberlain is a writer and blogger who regularly contributes to ERA Environmental Management Solutions' blog. You can find Alex on Google+LinkedIn & ERA's Environmental Compliance blog

Topics: Environmental Compliance & Data Management, Emissions Management