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Energy Efficiency & Circularity- Low risk actions for industrial decarbonization

We have seen significant developments that industries are following in the approaches of fuel switch or capturing and utilization of CO2 emissions. Beside these two relevant decarbonization paths, industry actors also work on the reduction of consumption for energy and materials.

Paying attention to energy efficiency is a longstanding approach which contributes to reducing CO2 emissions of industrial sites. In addition to paying off for decarbonization goals, increased energy efficiency contributes tangibly to cost reduction and achieving a higher overall competitiveness.

Let’s highlight some real case success stories:

  • Arcelormittal reduced site energy consumption by 3 % - only by the use of AI technology

  • Since 2012, Starbucks is saving 4 Million Dollars per year on energy costs in North America due to mass adoption of innovative LED technology

  • ABB enables energy savings of up to 10% by enabling smart pump control to New Zealand Waters

  • Hilton saved up over 20% of their energy consumption by following and implementing the guidelines of energy management systems

According to these few examples, we see that there is evidence for successful energy efficiency actions, but how does this sum up globally? The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects that with the available technologies, the world wide energy consumption could be reduced by 12% and expects that until 2040 could reach the potential of saving world wide energy consumption of over 20%. But how do multinational industrial actors achieve energy savings? There is no clear rule that fits all due to the nature of individual industry characteristics, but within the last decade, specific technology and process dimensions gained relevance in executing energy efficiency on an organizational level.

Let’s unfold these relevant topics.

The Brain: Organizational Energy Management

Achieving energy efficiency in large organizations demands a structured implementation approach as various business units and application fields must be analyzed and connected for executing holistic energy efficiency strategies. Depending on the specific need of an organization there are approaches available which provide a supportive role in creating awareness, defining evaluation criteria and executing action plans with the goal to achieve energy efficiency. Main components for embedding energy management within organizations can be found in following three process and technology dimensions:

  • Strategic Energy Management (SEM) - With the goal of building a base rock layer in complex organizations, the management framework of Strategic Energy Management (SEM) is an approach of organizational practices, policies, and processes that creates persistent energy savings by integrating energy management into business practices. SEM focuses on changes in daily operations and engages staff at all levels of an organization in energy efficiency activities.

  • ISO 50001 - The ISO 50001 standard (and accompanying ISO 500XX standards) provides a normative framework for organizations to follow an energy saving policy. Main requirements of this standard are:

    1. Development of a policy for more efficient use of energy

    2. Fixing targets and objectives to meet the policy

    3. Utilization of data to better understand and make decisions about energy use

    4. Measuring results

    5. Reviewing how well the policy works and

    6. Continuously improving energy management

Following internationally acknowledged standards gives organizational energy managers not only actionable legislations, but also an opportunity to build trust in the outward communications on sustainability and NetZero goals.

  • Energy Management Information Systems (EMIS) - Strategic decisions and building up organizational energy reduction policies can only effectively be put in place, if metrics allow status quo analysis and measure results of undertaken actions. This is where energy management information systems (EMIS) have their role to contribute with most accurate energy data to the overall goal. EMISs help organizations manage their use of energy more effectively by empowering them with needed information. EMISs combine hardware and software systems to simplify data gathering and analysis. However, unlike a building automation system, they do not control facility equipment. EMISs display vital operating parameters or may have additional advanced capabilities to perform algorithm-based data analytics. The results are then displayed in an easy-to-understand format for industrial operators that helps their decision-making.

Have a look into our watch-list for energy management solutions for diverse verticals:

The Heartbeat: System Efficiency

Machine driven systems are to a significant extent major energy consumers - e.g. 60 % of the total energy within the US manufacturing industry is used to power machines which are fueled with electricity, fossil fuels, process heating, process cooling, steam, compressed air etc.

Technologies which offers the lever for system efficiency include:

  • premium-efficiency motors which replaces combustion engines and achieves over 90% energy efficiencies

  • better system designs e.g. heat pumps that uses optimized refrigerants or improved pump technologies (e.g. brushless or acoustic pumps)

  • power conditioning which improves the quality of power that is delivered to electrical load equipment

  • adjustable speed drives that adjust the frequency and voltage providing only the power (speed and torque) the motor needs

  • software optimized performance using smart metering and deep learning techniques to optimize load provision

  • Regular system maintenance & continuous monitoring where Industry 4.0 / smart manufacturing solutions enable energy efficient operation and reduce maintenance efforts

  • Combined heat and power systems allowing to use energy byproducts for heating, cooling or energy production

Achieving energy efficiency, will therefore, require checking major system components whether high levels of energy efficiency have already been achieved.

The Healthy Diet: Material and Life Cycle Efficiency

Material and life cycle efficiency within industry production is characterized by using less materials for production, using materials with recycling and upcycling characteristics or using materials and products with extended life cycle efficiency.

For industrial organizations the question often arise what actions are of highest priority within efficiency field where research studies have laid out generic hierarchies to follow ideally within production sectors:

1. Reducing:

  • Material resources used in products, e.g. through the integration of functionalities (e.g. multifunctional devices allowing printing and scanning)

  • The dematerialisation of products and services

  • The avoidance of design over-specifications

  • Design optimisation and lightweighting processes e.g. as done already in the car industry

  • A more efficient use of material resources in the manufacturing process, including the minimization of the manufacturing waste

2. Re-using:

  • Making products/parts more durable (e.g. enhancing resistance and duration under defined conditions of use)

3. Recycling & Recovery:

  • Designing approaches aimed at improving the recyclability of products

  • Increasing the content of recycled materials in the product

  • The implementation of take-back systems to return products at the end of life

These three fields are characterized by strong investment and innovation activities - check out our watch list for material and life-cycle efficiency.

Composing Organizational Energy Efficiency

This brief overview on various efficiency categories shows that choosing the right heartbeat, diet and finally achieving successfully intraorganizational energy efficiency is depending on an multidimensional innovation strategy which stretches among several business units and stakeholders which needs to be defined with respect to:

  • Return on investment

  • Ideal system fit

  • Future competitiveness of chosen technology

Our Technology partners of the InCarbZero Innovation Accelerator support our members in finding and implementing the right efficiency driving components into the overall operational system. Contact us for more information.


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