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Energy saving without investment? Yes, it is possible!

CAPEX or not CAPEX? On the issue of energy savings, the question of the need for capital investment is a legitimate one for industry. Is it always necessary to invest to save? Are there solutions to consume less energy without any CAPEX?… David Hart, Director of Energy Intelligent Solutions in the UK, shares some thoughts.


Do all energy efficiency programmes in industry require capital investment?

David Hart – Energy optimisation does not necessarily require investment. It depends on the company: its strategy, the capacity for investment and the condition of the industrial assets.

Initiatives to reduce energy costs in industry can generally be divided into three categories:

1. The first category concerns buying energy efficiency equipment, such as a combined heat & power plant, heat recovery systems or energy efficient LED lamps. Clearly this type of action requires capital, often significant sums.

2. The second category is concerned with using existing equipment more efficiently. No capital investment is required, but changes are needed to operating practices, control settings and strategy, along with awareness and behaviour changes.

3. The third type of initiative is relevant when replacing equipment. Selecting more energy efficient solutions at the design stage will reduce operating expenses and can also reduce capital costs. For example, the efficiency of modern chillers is significantly increased through the use of larger heat exchangers, variable speed control, higher evaporating temperatures and better expansion valves. The size of the chillers needed can be reduced by measures to reduce cooling demands or raise the cooling temperature.


How can industry players chose efficient solutions for their site?

David Hart – Optimising existing equipment can often deliver a significant energy saving. For example, reducing the cooling tower water temperature setpoint on a central refrigeration system by just 1°C can reduce the energy use by 2.5%. I have implemented this measure on multiple occasions during my 20 years’ experience in breweries, dairies, chemical plants, cold stores and district cooling facilities. Similarly, in an oil processing facility we achieved a 4% improvement in energy performance, again just with a few changes to operating practices and control settings.

In order to identify the right decisions to improve the energy efficiency of an existing plant, you need to measure and then understand, through analysis of the data, how well the plant is operating from an energy standpoint. The starting point is to collect relevant data, typically energy use but, importantly, also production conditions (output volume, flowrates, temperatures…) and external influencers (weather, energy prices…). This data is required over a period of at least 3 months at least, typically, in order to capture data on performance variability.

You may need to install additional energy meters in the plant, although this is often not necessary; the data available in modern process and manufacturing facilities is often sufficient to make a good start.


What insights can industries gain from such data?

New analytics technologies have the capability to handle ‘Big Data’, and enable the detection and quantification, in just a few clicks, of the factors causing a variance in the energy performance. Industry operators can identify the control parameters, operating practices and setpoints that will give the best performance; this is effectively learning from past experience how the plant or equipment works best.

Data analytics systems are proven, valuable tools for energy management reporting and decision support. With the right tools, you can have quick wins, and easily reach 10% energy savings, if not more. On an industrial site the benefits are far from negligible!


Just like Blu.e, your company Energy Intelligent Solutions uses Big Data. Do you share the same approach?

Like Blu.e, we believe that Big Data analytics solutions are very effective at helping organisations to reduce their energy use and operating costs effectively and sustainably. Our companies have complementary skills and toolkits. By working together, we can boost the positive effects of our solutions.



Further reading

Article : “Industry: the importance of well-structured energy data” (september 2017)

Article : “Energy savings: installing more meters in your factories is not the answer!” (october 2017)