It’s Time to Commit to Energy Efficiency–for Planet and Profit

It’s Time to Commit to Energy Efficiency–for Planet and Profit
It’s Time to Commit to Energy Efficiency–for Planet and Profit

Energy-efficient technology enables businesses to save money and reduce emissions–without compromising on quality or output. Motor and drive technology has improved rapidly, meaning that businesses can save money and cut emissions by replacing existing units before they reach the end of their life.
Electric motors are essential to industry, powering fans, pumps, compressors, conveyors and other machinery – but they consume a huge amount of electricity. Around 45% of all electricity generated goes to powering electric motors and the systems they drive–and the number of industrial electric motors in use is expected to double by 2040.
At the same time, data from ABB’s March 2023 Energy Insights report reveals that 58% of business leaders believe that today’s energy crisis could delay their emission reduction targets by up to five years. The planet cannot afford for businesses to slow their sustainability efforts.
Fortunately, sustainability and profitability are not mutually exclusive. The same solution–investing in energy efficiency–enables businesses to reduce emissions and total lifetime costs. Efficiency also flows through to competitiveness as consumers and businesses want suppliers that prioritize sustainability and price.

Even small efficiency gains can result in significant savings

The same report found that only two in five business leaders (41%) feel that they have the information they need to make smart decisions about energy efficiency.
It’s therefore essential to spread the message that improving efficiency enables industry to use less energy and achieve the same result. This has major repercussions since energy use is often the greatest operational expense (OpEx) and a major source of CO2 emissions.
Fortunately, there are solutions out there that can help businesses achieve their efficiency objectives. As an example, an “ultra-premium” efficiency motor-drive package is more efficient than its "high-efficiency" alternative – it reduces the amount of energy lost as heat, noise and vibration by up to 40%. Based on a motor and drive package rated at 110 kilowatts (kW) and 2023 energy prices, the higher initial cost would be recovered in less than 4 months, with lifetime savings of more than €90,000. Other benefits of the lower operating temperature of ultra-premium technology are greater reliability and a longer lifespan.
A good first step to driving down energy use is to set a procurement strategy that prioritizes total cost of ownership (TCO). Over its lifetime, the capital expenditure (CapEx) for an electric motor will account for only 2% of TCO, maintenance accounts for around 1% and the remaining 97% goes to electricity. It’s a philosophy that puts the emphasis on the big picture for the biggest savings.

Efficiency for every industry, from food to flooring

It’s also worth looking at the energy-saving potential in systems that are already in operation. Typical motor-driven systems can be in operation for 20 years or more. Changing energy prices, technology and regulations over that time could mean it makes financial sense to upgrade motors and variable speed drives (VSDs or “drives”) before the end of their life.
One example is Campbell’s Australia, which produces soups, stocks and meals at its Shepparton plant in Victoria. In line with a goal of cutting energy consumption by 20% by 2025, it upgraded an essential refrigeration compressor motor to the most efficient motor-drive technology available.
Replacing this one motor resulted in a 14% reduction in energy. This is worth over $10,000 USD and eliminates the equivalent of 131 tons of CO2 emissions every year.
Flooring manufacturer Tarkett took a similar approach at its site in Ronneby, Sweden. After an energy appraisal revealed that Tarkett could upgrade ten motors to technology with 15% higher efficiency. This achieved savings that paid for the investment in under 18 months. It was an experience that prompted Tarkett’s electrical team leader to say that: “The biggest lesson for us is that we’ve been maintaining motors that we should have exchanged years ago.”

Enabling long-term savings and environmental gains

Energy efficient equipment presents a familiar tradeoff between CapEx and OpEx. Investing in more efficient, higher-quality solutions can yield quantifiable benefits over the long term–including major savings on energy costs, greater reliability and lower emissions. This tradeoff also means that waiting to upgrade to more efficient motors, drives and other equipment may be leaving money on the table.
Sustainability is another critical consideration. If we replaced the over 300 million industrial electric motors with efficient motor-drive packages, total global energy consumption would drop by 10%. That’s around 90% of the EU’s total annual consumption.
In short, efficiency is better for the bottom line and the environment. Counting down to Cop28, it's essential to collaborate and share best practice within and across industries. That’s why we’re engaging with the Energy Efficiency Movement as a platform to promote energy efficiency.

About The Author

Tarak Mehta is president of ABB’s Motion business area: the largest supplier of electric motors and variable speed drives, globally.

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