Getting started with energy reduction strategies

23 September 2022

Eryn Devola offers advice on where energy reductions can be found in typical manufacturing processes.

Today, the industrial manufacturing sector is one of the main sources of CO2 emissions – 20% of global CO2 emissions come from industry. Meanwhile, one-third of the global energy is consumed by the industrial sector. For this reason many manufacturers are currently feeling the pressure to produce in a more climate-friendly manner. 

However, a holistic and effective sustainability management can only work if companies consistently play the digital card which enables them to save waste, energy, and costs in their production plants. For example, artificial intelligence enables predictive maintenance of plants which, in turn, reduces energy consumption and waste. In addition, unforeseen shutdowns can be avoided using smart measurement sensors. Compressed air consumption in plants can be greatly reduced with the help of smart positioners. 

Furthermore, companies that rely on a comprehensive digital twin of their production can massively reduce their energy and heat consumption as well as CO2 emissions site-wide. 

The list goes on, but where should engineers consider taking the first steps to reduce energy consumption? Generally, there are several basic measures every manufacturer can start with immediately.

Efficient drive systems can make a big difference. Energy efficient production should begin with the drive systems used in industrial plants, where electric motors account for almost 70% of the electricity demand. Not only that, but the energy costs of an electric drive account for up to 97% of the total life cycle costs. Electric drive systems therefore offer enormous potential for savings. 

However, measures focusing on the motor alone will not be enough to achieve the Europe-wide target of reducing CO2 emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared with 1990. This will require a holistic system approach – Energy savings of up to 60% can be achieved for the entire drivetrain by combining measures such as increasing the efficiency of the motor itself, variable-speed operation using frequency converters, and optimisation through integrated digital solutions. Another component for increasing energy efficiency in the overall system is the use of energy storage systems. The key to achieving higher drive efficiency is to optimise the overall system using a holistic digital strategy. 

Holistic solutions
There is a need for holistic energy management solutions. Industry needs to keep a constant eye on energy consumption across operations to understand how much is being used when and for what purpose. This requires enterprise-wide energy management solutions – ranging from field level energy data recording right through to company-wide energy analysis – to identify major energy consumers and take suitable measures. This will allow companies to avoid energy peaks, for example. 

An automated load management system can automatically shut down systems and make them available again. Forecasting the expected load profile enables users to negotiate an optimised contract with the energy supply company and avoids penalties for exceeding the energy requirement. Transparent energy consumption helps make personnel more aware of energy efficiency within the company, and energy efficiency measures and targets such as the annual increase in energy efficiency can be tracked and verified.

Energy-efficient production means more than just reducing energy consumption, CO2 emissions, or costs – it also involves integrating energy and production data to analyse and optimise not only energy consumption but also the energy productivity of machines, plants, and processes. Together, these measures can provide an opportunity to achieve all-round improvements in process productivity and efficiency. 

Eryn Devola is vice president of sustainability at Siemens Digital Industries.

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