Why should I improve energy efficiency?
In recent years, reflections about human impact on the environment have intensified, and the industrial sector has not been spared. We need to change the way we produce. You may think that producing more sustainably will require heavy investments and increased costs. But what if we told you that there is a way to reduce energy consumption while remaining just as productive and lowering your costs in the process?
Improving the energy-performance of your industrial site will allow you to achieve the same production results while reducing your energy consumption and the associated costs. The next section describes what energy efficiency initiatives you could take to make energy efficiency improvements.
Current energy transition is driven by several internal and external factors such as
- The rising energy costs. We all noticed that energy prices have skyrocketed these past few months. Electricity prices doubled between 23/03/2021 and 23/03/2022.
- The desire of most organisations to achieve energy savings and reduce energy bills.
- The emergence and reinforcement of increasingly demanding standards that push companies towards a more sustainable energy-use.
- Stakeholders’ concern about the environmental crisis and their growing expectations about how companies will respond.
- Societal and ethical questioning about the role that industries should play in the ecological transition and resource conservation.
Whatever your motivations, it is now time to get started! Let’s go for our 5 steps program.
How can I improve the energy efficiency of my industrial equipment?
AC motors account for 70% of the total electricity consumption of industrial sites. It therefore seems logical to us, in a search for energy efficiency in equipment, to focus initially on identifying and correcting the leaks, losses and inefficiencies of machines.
1. Monitoring your energy consumption
The first step to reduce energy use is to obtain and understand your energy usage in an accurate, continuous and motor-specific way. In short, you need to be aware of what is happening at any given time on your site in terms of energy.
This step is not nearly as obvious as it sounds. Indeed, without the help of appropriate technologies, this task is extremely time-consuming and requires continuous monitoring. Many industries have only a very vague idea of their electrical consumption. Their knowledge is often limited to the consumption per production area, or even to the global consumption of the site. It is therefore almost impossible for them to take appropriate measures to increase energy efficiency.
At this level, your obstacles to real-time analysis of your consumption are probably at one of these three levels:
- You do not have the necessary technology.
- You do not have the necessary skills.
- You find that incentives are not sufficient in terms of the efforts you will have to make.
When it comes to skills and technology, fortunately for you there is our system that combines IoT sensors, which collect and process a huge amount of data specific to each of your motors, and AI-based algorithms, which analyze and organize this data. This saves you a lot of time and resources to obtain efficiency measures so that you can concentrate on the essentials, your actions.
As far as incentives are concerned, we have already mentioned some of them in the previous section. Let us briefly elaborate on compliance with standards which, although not mandatory in most cases, is a real plus. Some potential stakeholders might, for example, expect you to have ISO 50001 or similar certification and might not want to have any further relationship if you don’t. The ISO 50001 standard aims to facilitate the integration of energy management into the overall efforts of organisations. Obtaining certification to those standards is made impossible without the presence of data to demonstrate your actions.
2. Managing equipment failures
Having a good maintenance strategy is a prerequisite for increasing energy efficiency and thus reducing energy costs and reducing energy consumption.
Regular cleaning and maintenance can increase the life of equipment and slightly improve its performance. But this is only the first step, so don’t stop there. To optimize machine performance, it is no longer simply a matter of repairing the motor following a breakdown or failure, but of being able to identify and understand all its abnormal behavior.
Condition monitoring systems allow you to diagnose the health of your machines by observing the symptoms of failures and deviations from their normal behavior. Thanks to these systems, it is therefore possible to directly detect when a motor is causing energy losses and when it is consuming excessively.
Some condition monitoring systems go one step further by performing predictive maintenance, these monitoring tools are able to predict the occurrence of failures in advance (from a few days to a few months depending on the system and the type of failure). This allows you to anticipate and plan your maintenance to make it as strategic as possible.
3. Energy optimization of your motors
One of the major problems of energy waste in industry is that motors are not used to their full potential. For example, it is common to have oversized motors. But this practice has several consequences for production efficiency. First of all, a larger machine consumes more energy, which is lost. Secondly, if the motor was built for a certain load and is underused, it might break down more quickly.
This non-adapted equipment therefore uses much more energy than necessary, and their optimisation can therefore be the source of important energy savings. Once the sources of inefficiencies are found, it becomes possible to take actions and obtain energy efficient equipment.
As we discuss in the next section, it is not always possible or advisable to change machines as soon as they are not perfectly adapted.
To reduce the power consumption of a motor without replacing it, it is sometimes possible to use variable frequency drives (VFDs), for example, which avoid large losses by controlling the current frequency supplied to the motor. The impact of its implementation varies greatly depending on the power of your motors and the use you make of it. However, the variable frequency drive allows you to regulate the load of your motor and save energy significantly.
4. Replace your outdated equipment
It is obvious that new equipment is more energy efficient than equivalent older equipment. Moreover, technologies tend to improve and consume less over time.
However, it is not always easy to identify when it is better or possible to replace an energy-inefficient machine with a newer, more suitable version. In order to determine the profitability of the investment, many factors must be taken into account: replacing a machine also has an energy impact, a cost and sometimes requires production to be stopped, etc.
On the other hand, in some cases you will be forced to upgrade your equipment. According to EU regulations, three-phase motors with a rated power equal to or greater than 0.75 kW and equal to or less than 1000 kW must achieve IE3 by July 2021. Motors with a power rating between 75 kW and 200 kW must achieve IE4 by July 2023.
After completing the previous 4 steps, it is important to be able to quantify your efforts, to know the amount of energy that has been saved. Compare your energy consumption before and after your digital transformation.
This will be more motivating; you will be able to see the evolution and the progress made. It will also give you a reference point for setting future goals. Moreover, to prove your compliance with the standards, you will be asked to demonstrate your energy reduction year after year. And finally, don’t underestimate the importance of communicating your efforts with your customers. You have made all these efforts, be proud of them and show them off with lots of figures.
At Insens, we want to help you through this long and tedious process. We know that this energy transition is not an easy thing for industries to implement. That’s why we offer a solution that helps you every step of the way. Instead of having to manage each of these steps separately on your own, we have integrated them all into a single solution that supports and guides you through the entire process.
A transition has never been so easy and cost-effective!