Find the process demand waste in your energy system

After you’ve done the basics on energy management, where do you look next for cost savings?


After you’ve done the basics on energy management, where do you look next for cost savings? Plant Engineering posed that question to Robb 

Dussault, a solutions development leader for Schneider Electric. He’s a certified professional energy manager from the Institute of Energy Professionals with degrees from North Carolina State and the University of Massachusetts.

PLANT ENGINEERING: As companies look to spend more on energy management, where are the first places to start?

Dussault: After the low-hanging fruit is gone (high efficiency lighting, boiler tuning, HVAC upgrades, pneumatic leak repair), the next step should be the process energy, where, on average, 84% of the energy is used in an industrial facility. While the first reaction is "we can't let energy initiatives impact production,” there's a lot that can be done to mitigate energy waste while improving operational efficiency. Idle state management and peak demand management are the most common of these "process demand functions"

PE: We think of building management applying to office and institutional buildings, but where are the opportunities for manufacturers to take advantage of building automation for managing energy usage?

Dussault: This is especially important for industries where there is a tight link between production and the building. For example, pharmaceuticals who need to control air quality and food & beverage operations with a high dependency on humidity and temperature. Being able to control the building systems based on operational conditions and production schedules enables new levels of optimization.

PE: Cost savings, and not incentives, were by far the biggest driver of energy management strategies. And it wasn't even close: A 6-1 ratio. This seems to point to one of our themes, energy as a raw material—measuring energy as a cost of production. What are your thoughts on why cost reduction seems to be such a strong driver of energy management? 

Dussault: Industrial facilities consider energy as the latest frontier in cost competitiveness. In many cases, they've done all they can to minimize labor costs, and have also minimized raw materials. Energy efficiency allows them to increase profits, especially here in the USA, where we already have a global competitive energy cost advantage.

mbining the existing production data sources with energy data available in metering and intelligent control devices such as VFDs, contactors, electrical distribution and and motor control centers, manufacturers will use analysis tools to detect patters of energy utilization and will hone-in on best practices. They already do this through their Manufacturing Execution Systems for process optimization, applying this same technique for energy optimization will fortify the results.

Top-Down driven energy management. While traditionally energy management has been the sole burden of the facilities engineer, results are multiplied with the involvement of process engineers, controls engineers, and procurement professionals. With a deliberate "Energy Management Organization" in place, the right key performance indicators will drive results that can be leveraged not just through cost savings, but spread to shareholder value, brand perception, and employee engagement. The emerging adoption of the ISO50001 will accelerate this trend.

PE: Energy audits are a place to start in any energy management program, yet few people are utilizing this tool. Why are energy audits important, and why do you think they are so often overlooked?

Dussault: The key to effective auditing is to have the right scope of work and a project team that is unbiased and independent of available solutions.
The term “energy audit” is used to describe many different activities which may or may not support an effective energy management program. Companies should be careful not to accept an audit that is actually a veiled selling activity focused on specific opportunities for which the “auditor” provides a solution.

Such audits are often provided for “free” and overlook significant opportunities, particularly for non-capital improvements. Effective audits are not biased to specific solutions, audits should provide a clear understanding of opportunities and problems before any consideration of available solutions.
The audit scope must include developing a clear understanding of the business and facilities, energy goals, energy requirements and existing opportunities/problems to be addressed. Most companies do not find it helpful for an outside consultant to tell them to replace lighting and turn down the thermostat. The audit report needs to be an action plan built on a foundation of the existing programs and present knowledge. It should be a roadmap to achieving goals from the client’s present position.
Finally, remember that fully half of available savings is likely associated with non-capital improvements. An audit scope that does not address culture and behavioral changes is only part of the story.

PE: Companies are seeing a quick ROI on energy management, but that fast start can tend to fade if you don't stay on top of it. What are the best ways to sustain energy management programs?

The low-hanging fruit typically plucked by Industrial End Users in the early stages of an energy initiative, such as lighting upgrades, pneumatic system repairs and boiler tuning, do net a quick ROI that's relatively easy to calculate. The more advanced energy management initiatives, however, typically net a more dramatic ROI, but the necessary calculations to demonstrate that ROI are a bit more complex.
This is because the more sophisticated energy initiatives have a tight correlation between energy mitigation, process optimization, and maintenance efficiency. Initiatives at this level more often target process energy, where more than 90% of the energy is used in an industrial facility. Every dollar invested in lowering process energy consumption typically nets even greater return in the form of higher throughput, fewer breakdowns, and lower material waste.

In addition, factory-floor visualization systems put in place to engage employees in meeting efficiency goals often compound the effect, as they empower operators to make hour-by-hour adjustments that are difficult to predict in advance, but that can generate enormous benefit without incurring additional capital costs.
What's key is expanding the scope of the industrial energy program beyond the facilities department. Establish aggressive goals at the operational management level to be sure that the correct financial return model can be applied to justify the investments.

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