Thinking Tech

How to save more than $2M a year with better utility data

How to save more than $2M a year with better utility data

Posting in Energy

Cox Enterprises started saving serious cash when it began analyzing energy usage and billing data from the company's accounts with 300 utility providers around the country.

Cox Enterprises found a treasure trove of information when it started to analyze the billing data from its 35,000 accounts with 300 different power utilities across the country. The company, which owns cable operator Cox Communications among other holdings, discovered usage report errors, odd rate discrepancies, and in one case, an account which should have been billed to Comcast, but was instead invoiced to Cox for roughly ten years.

The findings were all made possible by a new dashboard system, which Cox put in place as part of its Cox Conserves program, and demonstrated this week at a cable engineering industry event in Philadelphia. Through a partnership with Urjanet, Cox set up the dashboard to digitize and track utility bills, and figure out where it could save power and reduce costs. After less than two years, Cox now has 85% of its accounts completely automated, and it can view individual utility bills online, or pull up aggregate data reports. The company is saving $2 million annually from several errors it’s corrected with local power providers, and it expects to fully pay back its investment in the Urjanet system within a year and a half.

One example of a correction Cox has made comes from a power company in Omaha. The utility provider was billing Cox for 1,500 kilowatt hours of energy usage per month. However, Cox was also operating facilities across the border in Iowa, where usage meters showed it was only consuming 1,000 kilowatt hours per month. Given the similarity of operations in both states, Cox questioned the Omaha provider, and an investigation showed the company was being overbilled.

Then there’s the Massachusetts case. It’s unclear why Cox didn’t realize the mistake earlier, but with no business in the New England state, the utility bills the company received from a Massachusetts power provider there –paid in full by Cox for about a decade – were clearly in error. Once Cox did a complete audit with its new dashboard system, the invoices were quickly rerouted to fellow cable operator, and rightful recipient Comcast.

All told, Cox is getting a serious financial return on investment from its partnership with Urjanet. But the value of its newly compiled energy usage data comes from more than just direct cost savings. The company is also documenting its carbon footprint. Company management is interested in how it can improve the bottom line, but there’s a pretty nice environmental benefit to the program too. By getting a handle on its electricity usage, Cox is figuring out where it can conserve energy, which helps with cutting costs and creating a greener, more sustainable business.

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Mari Silbey

Contributing Editor

Mari Silbey is an independent tech writer based in Washington, D.C. With a background in cable and telecom, she's a contributor to several trade publications, and part of the GigaOM analyst network. She also writes for the long-running digital media blog Zatz Not Funny, and has written for both corporate and association clients focused on broadband networks, mobile apps, and video delivery. She's a graduate of Duke University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure