A 4 step guide to smart energy management

Having the right energy strategy can improve reliability and sustainability while reducing energy bills as Nicolas Larue reports.

Energy is typically the fastest growing expense for manufacturers today. It can consume up to 30 per cent of an operating budget. With digitisation and the use of electronic devices on the rise, the reliance on and use of energy will only continue.

As energy prices soar and green tariffs come into force, it comes as no surprise that manufacturers are concerned about how much energy they’re consuming and at what cost.

The benefits of effective energy management are clear: protect the environment, save energy and reduce costs, and ultimately operate a cleaner network free of power quality issues. But realising the full potential of energy savings in your business can be more complex than switching equipment off when it’s not in use.

With this in mind, here are four simple steps you can take to develop an action plan for smarter energy management that could see the energy bills in your facility drop dramatically.

1. Know your energy usage

Knowledge is power, so before diving in and installing technology within your facility, it’s important to get to know your energy usage.

Smart energy management provides visibility of effective and efficiency energy usage. So a good way to start is to conduct an energy and power audit. This is where you analyse energy use and power quality based on measurement and then establish a baseline – based on historical data from the last 12 – 24 months.

There are tools you can use to help measure your energy consumption, such as energy meters and power quality monitors. This review can be complemented by using a software platform that functions as a centralised portal of energy data – helping you to see all your areas of energy consumption and track in real-time.

Once you understand your usage, you can identify areas of significant energy use and those with poor power quality, and prioritise and record opportunities for improving energy performance.

2. Fix the basics

Once you understand where your energy is being used, implementing the right kind of corrective action can create an almost immediate financial benefit – potentially 10 – 15 per cent worth of savings. Here are just some of the opportunities for smarter energy management – where you could uncover efficiency gains:

Building controls: Simple control adjustments can produce rapid energy savings. Are your building controls optimised for performance? Are lights and other systems running at the correct settings?

Mechanical: How do HVAC systems use energy throughout the facility? Can the performance of chill water, distribution, and steam systems be improved? Do air handlers and sequencers need upgrading or adjusting? Are outdated motors wasting energy? Replacing an old motor with a newer, high efficiency motor can improve energy efficiency by 90 per cent.

Electrical: How is electricity used and how efficient is the total system—from lighting and controls to office equipment, refrigeration, and kitchens? Since facilities use electricity in many ways, there are usually opportunities for savings. There could be issues with power quality to address, such as high kVA demand, poor power factor, harmonic distortions and voltage sag/swell.

Envelope: How does your building envelope perform and how does it affect other energy systems? Could simple improvements to insulation yield significant savings?

Water: Water, like energy, is a resource that can be conserved to save money. Are cooling towers losing too much water to evaporation? Are you paying for sewage charges that could be avoided with metering? Can water heating be planned and managed to reduce costs, based on actual usage times and areas?

3. Automate energy solutions

Once you’ve fixed the basics, and implemented energy saving techniques, the next step is to, where possible; introduce automation across your energy efficient solutions.

Automation of your energy related appliances and facilities – whereby energy is only ‘on’ when it’s really needed – can add another 5 per cent of efficiency savings.

For example, you could have introduced energy saving light fittings – but if you further implemented ceiling mounted occupancy sensors and power linked intelligent lighting panels, you could see additional saving.

4. Don’t stop there

Without ongoing monitoring and maintenance you could see energy savings slip back by 2 – 8 per cent.

The final step is to keep regulating your energy usage and illustrate the positive impacts to keep energy management high on the business agenda.

This will also allow you to keep an eye out for new opportunities to make improvements as your facility changes and grows.

[Nicolas Larue is Product Manager in Power Quality at Schneider Electric]

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