This article was written by Robert Lamoon, founder and director of Energy Savvy, which aims to help companies become more energy efficient. Energy Savvy, a member of the Energy Saving Association, was founded in 2011, and is an approved distributor for multinational energy efficiency firm Enigin PLC.
Efficiency is key
Despite the European wide financial problem there is still much that companies can and need to do to protect their bottom line and maximize their profits - the financial hardships mean that it is the perfect time to concentrate on efficiency.
Efficiency is key to building more profitable companies - not just about working harder but having the vision and knowledge to work smarter. Priorities have been running the business, not looking at non-strategic spend. As energy is often one of the highest resource costs, it provides one of the biggest opportunities for savings to lead to improved profitability.
Why, when and how?
Smarter companies are seeing the potential financial benefits of investing in energy efficient measures. By improving energy efficiency, companies can reduce their energy expenditure by up to 40 percent, gain a competitive advantage and reduce their dependence on volatile prices.
There’s a business case for acting, and a threat to growth prospects if procrastinating. For any company contemplating introducing an energy efficiency programme, the best time is now. Energy savings are compounded so the sooner started, the sooner energy wastage can be tackled and overall profit retained in the business.
You can’t control what you can’t measure
How can you control and reduce energy demand if you cannot find out what you used until months later when the revenue bill arrives?
“You cannot begin to control what you cannot see or measure”; a proverb that you may have heard but poignant to deciding the starting point should be to implement ‘Smart Metering’.
Smart meters enable monitoring of energy consumption in real time so you can create a detailed profile and see where the energy is going second by second. Monitor individual areas or particular pieces of equipment to isolate energy leaks and expose energy abusers.
Act on what you know
But, the energy data by itself will not save energy. The data needs to be analysed to understand the pattern of energy consumption and a targeting programme planned to achieve continual improvement.
This may be to identify wasted energy used outside of the working day above a defined baseline, or erratic energy spikes at different times of day or a heartbeat level that may be higher than it should be, considering the environment. The Smart Meter needs to be part of a combined energy management system with diagnostic tools to analyse trends and to provide valuable insight into energy consumption over time. Once you know the health of the power supply and where the energy is going, it is then possible to diagnose the problem, take control and reduce and eliminate energy wastefulness.
If the ‘smart meter energy management system’ has built in alarms, it can trigger warnings so that variances or anomalies can be investigated as they happen to respond immediately and prevent excessive use.
Get everyone on board
If the energy data can be exhibited in a prominent position, such as on a display monitor in the company reception for all to see, it creates awareness among a building’s occupants, suppliers and customers to provide incentive and empowerment to change their behaviour in a positive manner.
Attitude, knowledge awareness and skill of a business’ employees are significant to bringing about energy saving improvement. Their actions may have been contributing to the cause of energy waste so they may need help and guidance. An energy saving strategy needs to motivate the workforce to gain their backing. Increasing their level of energy awareness promotes a change of behaviour and attitude so they are vigilant to waste and keen to suggest improved working methods.
Energy monitoring and targeting is a proven technique to reduce energy consumption by typically 10 percent and sometimes considerably more.
Implement low cost strategies
There are lots of cutting edge energy saving devices now readily available and priced to provide short term Return On Investment (ROI). These can be retrofitted to existing equipment covering a range of appliances such as lighting, motors, refrigeration and air-conditioning.
The biggest energy expenditure for most businesses is often on lighting - typically as much as 40 percent of the total.
The best and cheapest form of lighting is to use natural daylight from the sun. Where this is not available, LED lighting is the most innovative technology emerging with energy efficient savings of 85 percent over incandescent lighting. Prices are dropping in this rapidly developing market such that LED solutions can now achieve a decent ROI when taking account of their extended lifetime.
Turning lights off when they are not needed obviously saves money. To reinforce this, occupancy detectors can be utilized to automatically turn lights off when nobody is about and daylight harvesting sensors which adjust the light intensity dynamically to compensate for the presence of natural light.
Intelligent motor torque controllers can be applied to fixed speed motor applications such as escalators to dynamically adjust the torque output to meet the load requirements without changing the speed. This is ideal for saving energy where motors are left running at low load for long periods. In motor applications where speed can be varied, such as with pumps and fans, intelligent variable speed controllers can be used to adjust the speed of motors to match the variable loading so the motors only consume the power they need.
Soft-start controllers promote energy saving as they drastically reduce motor wear and tear in applications frequently starting up; hence such motors are left running continuously even when they are not being used. Enabling these motors to be turned off can save huge energy waste.
Refrigeration and chiller units can be retro-fitted with energy saving devices that intelligently monitor the food temperature instead of the circulating air temperature. The air temperature tends to rise far more quickly than food temperature and as a result, the refrigeration works harder than necessary, which in turn leads to excessive energy consumption.
Saving money also saves the environment
Reducing energy costs and saving money by employing a variety of energy efficient methods is common sense and commercial sense but it also makes environmental sense.
Reducing carbon emissions as a consequence, is beneficial for an environmentally sustainable future so that economic goals can help achieve environmental goals.