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No time like the present – transforming industrial energy efficiency starts now


4 min read

Photo of Adrian Guggisberg, Division President, ABB Motion Services, from waist up, standing in front of industrial equipment Photo: ABB
Adrian Guggisberg, Division President, ABB Motion Services

Photo: ABB

Electric industrial motors use vast quantities of energy and the tools to reduce wastage are available now. Let’s start using them, writes Adrian Guggisberg, Division President of ABB Motion Services.

Electrical motion is central to the success of society. Transport systems, building services and industrial processes all rely on pumps, fans, conveyors and other machines for heating, cooling, conveying and transporting. There are hundreds of millions of electric motor-driven systems serving industry around the world.


According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), industry consumes 42% of total global electricity and motors consume the majority of this. However, many motor-driven systems are operating inefficiently and draw more power than they should.


In 2022, the energy crisis has shown that energy is precious. Coupled with the ongoing drive towards net zero, it has prompted many leaders in industry to look at the energy efficiency of their industrial equipment as potentially being a source of value.


Recognising this, the Energy Efficiency Movement, a global forum initiated by ABB, has published The industrial energy efficiency playbook. This sets out 10 tangible actions that organisations can take to immediately lower energy costs and carbon emissions. These actions can serve as an immediate start for progress on energy consumption.


Combine smaller savings
It has always been possible to use energy efficiency appraisals to identify when motors are operating inefficiently. The drawback of these traditional energy appraisals is that they are labour intensive. They require specialist motor efficiency consultants to visit sites for extensive data gathering and analysis. As a result, the approach has typically been reserved for just the largest and most powerful motors as these may be seen as having the most potential to improve efficiency.


However, this overlooks the potential benefit that can be achieved by combining energy efficiency savings from many smaller motors – and these can be significant.


Recent advances in digital technology have made it straightforward and inexpensive to evaluate many more motors. It is now possible to gather digital operating data from entire connected fleets of motors, even when some are hard to access. Rather than visiting a site in person, the external consultant can focus on remote data analysis, evaluating potential actions and making recommendations.


Huge impact
Motors are often specified to have maximum efficiency at peak demand; but, in reality, loads are usually much lower. By studying the data, an energy efficiency expert can identify how efficiently every motor in the fleet is operating. Potential solutions are to install a variable speed drive (VSD), upgrade to high-efficiency technology, or simply alter operational schedules.


This type of action can have a huge impact. For example, if industry switched from legacy industrial motors to modern, high-efficiency versions, we could decrease total global electricity consumption by 10%.


After evaluating the data, it’s possible to compare the cost of these solutions. The result is that they can pinpoint the assets that need attention and take informed decisions that will save the most energy and carbon and cut utility bills. It also provides industry with the confidence that it can make investments with the best payback, and it delivers positive results right away.


Achieving higher levels of energy efficiency has always made good financial sense, but the return on investment is faster than ever now that industry is facing high energy costs.


We don’t need to wait for a breakthrough in battery technology or for artificial intelligence to pass some distant threshold. We don’t need to shutter production or bring industry to a standstill either. Because, when it comes to energy efficiency, there’s no time like the present.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author only and are not necessarily given or endorsed by or on behalf of the Energy Institute.