Energy efficiency is the focus

PACE 60-year Anniversary Series: Energy Management

With the country’s first carbon tax introduced last year and energy prices rising by the month, there has never been a better time to assess factory equipment running costs.

And, with the sheer focus on energy efficiency by the government and consumers today, you could be excused for thinking it a new idea.

However, just like the act of reducing material waste, energy efficiency – or using less power to perform the same tasks – has been a desirable means to reduce plant running costs and ‘do more with less’ for decades.

According to Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) pacific director, Garry Mahoney, the concept of measuring industrial energy usage has actually been around for 40 years.

“In the mid-1970s, the advent of microprocessor-based technology enabled a step-change in real-time control, reporting and management of site electrical maximum demand,” he told PACE.

Mahoney has been working in the instrumentation and automation fields for over 35 years, starting off his career in the minerals processing and smelting industry before joining HPS in 1981.

He claims though microprocessors allowed more control and reporting of the energy used in industrial environments, companies didn’t really begin to focus efforts on becoming more ‘energy efficient’ until the last couple of decades. 

“Energy monitoring and management have become a major focus for our customers, which wasn’t the case at all 10 or 15 years ago. Now, nearly 50% of Honeywell’s products are linked to energy efficiency,” he said.

According to Mahoney, the energy monitoring and management products and systems on the market today are significantly more sophisticated than offerings from even 10 years ago, reflecting how focused on this area industry has become.

“An example of such a solution is Honeywell’s Energy Management Systems – a portfolio of hardware, software and services to help improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in energy intensive industrial processes,” Mahoney explained.

“This can be tailored to meet the customer’s needs, allowing them to benefit from better energy reporting and management throughout their operations to deliver increased profitability.”

Better management with automation and control

ABB Australia senior product engineer, Ian Richardson, believes the concept of energy measurement has actually been around for even longer – since the 1800s – though he agrees it wasn’t until much more recently that industry truly embraced the idea.

“William Thompson, 1st Baron Kelvin, known as Lord Kelvin (1824–1907) is considered the father of electrical measurement and once stated ‘to measure is to know’. This phrase is a cornerstone of modern energy conservation for, without measuring consumption, we cannot determine if the energy efficiency concepts that are implemented are truly effective,” he told PACE.

“Energy management and energy efficiency gained greater focus around the time of privatisation of the energy markets in Australia. Energy conservation was always seen as a good thing to do and, in certain market sectors, having a ‘green’ policy towards energy was given some importance.

“As the energy market developed, and following global trends, energy prices began to increase, which presented the economic argument for consumers to be more aware of their energy usage.

“In the 1990s businesses began to become interested in measuring their energy consumption with the view of understanding their load profile and having the ability to manage their demand.”

A typical line-up of electricity quality (EQ) meters on the market today. This range from ABB – designed for modular enclosures and DIN rail – help users identify areas where energy consumption is too high, and where investments need to be made.

A typical line-up of electricity quality meters on the market today. This range from ABB – designed for modular enclosures and DIN rail – help users identify areas where energy consumption is too high, and where investments need to be made.

Richardson, who has been involved in the manufacturing, automation and process control fields for over 35 years, agrees energy monitoring and management systems have advanced dramatically over the last couple of decades.

“Once simple, energy meters can now provide a vast array of information, including load profile data, time of day usage, power quality analysis and numerous electrical parameters from a single inexpensive device,” he explained.

“In the early times we could measure consumption relatively easily and make decisions on our demand profile in a fairly manual way. Today, we can have preset parameters for an automated system to operate and manage a load profile including automatic load shedding of non-priority loads or adjusting loads to slightly reduce demand under a load threshold, while still maintaining production or building comfort levels, depending upon the application.”

Richardson believes the key to modern energy management systems is the ability for greater control in a fully-automated way.

“In a building application it is possible to reduce illumination levels by a small percentage that is often undetectable, or lower a building temperature setpoint by one degree during a peak demand cycle. A one degree change of the setpoint could translate to a 6% energy saving of the air conditioning plant consumption on some systems,” he said.

The rise of energy consultants

Though you’d be hard-pressed to find a manufacturing or processing plant in Australia today that isn’t focused in some way on reducing costs through finding efficiencies, energy efficiency technologies are still fairly immature, according to Schneider Electric (Australia) energy consultant in professional services, Eric Xu.

Xu began his engineering career in an electrical vehicle R&D company in China, and has spent over 11 years working around the manufacturing and processing industries. He believes he witnessed an important event – the beginnings of a new wave of energy efficiency consulting services – when he joined Schneider Electric in 2005.

“I can still remember my first job in Schneider Electric China; it was to commission an energy monitoring system that also supported the data uploading and remote analysis. Despite the internet-access difficulties of that time, we successfully delivered a two-year project reporting quarterly energy consumption analyses with European colleagues,” Xu told PACE.

“This could be deemed the start of the evolution of energy consultancy services Schneider Electric offers today, which include energy procurement services, consultancy and advocacy, and software solutions.”

Xu says improved data visualisation and analysis capabilities, and cloud-based technology, have both contributed to the development of energy management systems.

“The ability to capture aggregated data from disparate systems, and analyse raw energy data against the process, provides a more enhanced view into the operations and efficiency of the plant. This information can be tailored to specific users such as from site engineers to C-level managers who may have limited knowledge of the electrical system,” he explained.

“The other development is the introduction of the cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) concept. This advancement results in reduced implementation and operation costs, scalability and future proofing, but also allows interaction with energy consulting services.

“Energy monitoring to produce reports is no longer a sufficient outcome by itself. Energy monitoring at the sub meter level in a manufacturing or processing plant will remain the backbone of energy efficiency and will provide the necessary discrimination to integrate both process and energy data.  

“The shift to specialised energy services and practical outcomes is more evident than ever before. Industry end-users are engaging with consultants and knowledge experts around verification and international and local standards.”

According to Xu however, there is still a knowledge gap, with many end-users not aware how to utilise the data gathered from energy monitoring systems to actually save costs.

“In most cases the energy monitoring and management products are not used effectively as the there is a gap between the raw data and the useful, or the understandable, information that is required by decision-makers,” he said.

“Thus, professional consultancy services are both necessary and valuable, filling the gap and assisting end-users build-up their own capabilities. The energy monitoring and management products themselves should take more critical roles in the site’s daily operation, and are able to bring more benefits to the site/facility management.” 

Send this to a friend