All forms of commerce require energy. Industrial processing and manufacturing facilities tend to be the largest consumers, but even service industries such as insurance and banking require large buildings which must be heated, cooled and lit. The newest large energy consuming enterprises are data centers, which are large clusters of computers which store and serve up the data which flows through the internet. Regardless of the end use or the industry, companies strive to minimize production costs by minimizing energy consumption.
In addition to economic incentives, it is increasingly accepted that every BTU that is generated by burning fossil fuels (the source of the majority of our energy) leads to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. This, in turn, appears to be causing some undesirable changes in the global climate. There are now more reasons than ever for companies to seriously strive to reduce energy consumption.
Reducing Energy Consumption
Effectively reducing overall energy consumption requires planning and corporate-wide commitment. For example, consider a product that is dried in a natural gas fired dryer, subsequently cured, brought to a final dryness in an electric dryer, and then coated. If an individual manager reacted to a “mandate to save energy,” he or she might reduce the amount of gas used in the first dryer. This action, however, might interfere with the curing process and would increase the load in the electric dryer, which is incrementally more expensive to use than the gas dryer. This isolated action would actually result in a higher total energy use and production cost and perhaps quality problems.
This type of misstep can be avoided through the development of an Energy Management Program. The goal of such a program is to sustainably reduce energy use throughout a business, and it consists of two important components.
Collection & Analysis of Energy Data
The backbone of an energy management program is the collection and analysis of energy data. Being able to quantify the current levels of energy consumption and measure future improvements is essential. Energy management software should be able to:
- Collect data from a variety of sources (i.e. discrete meters, DCSs, PLCs, databases, other data collection systems)
- Compile data from multiple plant sites, if needed
- Store (or historize) the collected data
- Show current and historical data in meaningful and clear displays
- Provide tools for data analysis
In addition to the data handling system, a significant administrative and social element is required for a comprehensive energy management program, as reducing energy consumption requires change. Plants have historically relied on passive methods, installing a more efficient motor or insulating a heated tank, to reduce energy, where savings will happen automatically once installed. However, convincing operators to report compressed air leaks or to control processes more efficiently, activities which require their ongoing participation, requires good communication of goals and some retraining. For these reasons, upper management must be involved and committed to the goal of energy reduction. Furthermore, the goals and actions of the program must be clearly communicated to everyone in the company who will be implementing them, or are affected by the changes. Training and understanding are crucial to the overall success of this type of program.
Once goals have been set and changes implemented, data can be reviewed to observe the effectiveness of the changes. Whether a group of initiatives are successful or not, new ideas for energy use reduction will probably come to light, and other changes can be implemented. Changes within the process and changes in the cost and availability of external energy supplies mean that energy use optimization must be an ongoing process.
Implementing An Energy Management Solution Using ISO 50001
One approach to implementing an energy management program is to use the International Organization for Standards guidelines for energy saving, or ISO 50001-2011. This standard lays out requirements for policies, procedures, tools, and techniques to implement an effective energy management program. The objective of the standard is to integrate energy management into all parts of an organizational culture, and to avoid having an “energy saving program” be a short term initiative handled by only certain departments, such as engineering or accounting. In addition to company-wide involvement, part of the ISO standard specifies that there also needs to be continual improvement in both the program and the actual energy savings.
The ISO 50001 standard takes a structured and systematic approach toward achieving energy performance improvements using a “Plan-Do-Check-Act” improvement framework:
The first step toward implementing an energy program is to create a plan. This step can be described in two phases. In the first phase, top management must commit to the concept of energy reduction and develop a framework for implementation. The framework includes defining the scope, creating policies and goals, and developing a team of people to lead or undertake the required work. When all these pieces are in place, the importance of what is being done needs to be communicated to everyone within the organization.
The second phase of the planning step involves collecting and reviewing data. The goal of this work is to understand the current state of operation and identify areas of significant energy consumption. Based on this knowledge, strategies for energy reduction are proposed.
In this step, actual energy management and reduction actions are implemented. New, energy efficient equipment may be purchased at this point. Energy saving procedures are put into place. Responsible individuals are assigned and workers are retrained if necessary. Alternate external energy sources may be found and implemented in response to cost or environmental concerns.
An energy management program requires a process for determining if it is being effective. Internal audits should look at the administrative aspects of the program itself to determine if it has any deficiencies, and to determine if it is being correctly implemented. Energy data also needs to be reviewed to determine the effectiveness of the program regarding actual energy consumption. Deficiencies in the administration or performance of the program need to be corrected. Results are documented and reported to top management.
A key element of an ISO 50001 energy management program is the idea of continual improvement in energy performance. Therefore, the top management of an organization must have a process in place to periodically review and evaluate both the company’s current energy program and its energy performance. Management must identify new opportunities, and take action for improvement.
Receiving “ISO 50001 certification” requires review and certification by an official third party organization of all the procedures and documentation related to an energy management program. Furthermore, certification requires that a company actually meet its internally set goals for energy reduction. While an ISO certified energy program may be more complex than an internally developed program, it has the advantage that external guidance and verification may increase the internal importance and chances of success of a program. Additionally, the ISO certification should have a positive marketing influence. It is a clear indication to everyone inside and outside a company, including its customers, that a company is committed to saving energy and reducing the impact of its operations on the environment.
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