Over the past nine months, the war in Ukraine has destabilized energy markets worldwide. As a major importer of Russian fossil fuels, these impacts have been most keenly felt in the European Union (EU).
Electricity retail prices have increased by almost 50% year-on-year from July 2021, placing unprecedented pressure on businesses and households. There are reports of companies temporarily suspending operations to cope with spiraling costs, with others being pushed into bankruptcy.
As we discussed in a recent whitepaper, RePowerEU – a suite of policies focused on diversifying gas supplies, increasing the use of renewables, and saving more energy – provides a strong framework to end the bloc’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels while accelerating the net zero ambitions of the Green Deal. For instance, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that, between 2022 and 2027, Europe is set to double the amount of renewable power capacity added to its grid in the previous five years.
But as essential as the long-term decarbonization of the EU’s energy supply remains, such measures do little to help companies struggling with the immediate consequences of the current price spike. In this regard, maximizing the efficiency with which we consume our energy is vital – and that’s where digitalization comes in.
With this in mind, this blog post (the first in a series) aims to help owners and operators of commercial and industrial facilities withstand this energy crisis. And, crucially, all the measures proposed are rooted in deploying relatively technically straightforward, cost-effective, and proven technologies available today.
How Schneider Electric leverages digital tools to boost energy efficiency
For several years, our organization has been advancing energy management practices across all of our facilities worldwide. Supported by our EcoStruxure solutions, we’ve already achieved over 35% energy savings over ten years. For our European sites, we have a dedicated team helping guide and measure the progress of sites based on three levels of maturity:
- Bronze: Connected energy meters send data to software.
- Silver: Dashboards analyze energy efficiency. Alarms notify when a process needs corrective action.
- Gold: Energy monitoring integrated into the site’s global management cycles. The site team is challenged with reaching a higher level of maturity, targeting the biggest consumers first.
The program is driving recent successes at many of our European facilities. For example, one factory uses an extensive metering network connected to an integrated power management and building management system (BMS) solution. ISO 50001-compliant energy reporting is helping the site’s team accurately estimate project ROI, prioritize actions, then validate savings against projections.
Several data-driven actions have helped save energy and reduce fossil-fuel dependence. These include creating automated alarms that alert maintenance personnel if compressors consume too much energy. Integrated monitoring and control have enabled BMS performance to be optimized. Factory LED lighting has been upgraded. Three gas boilers’ start/stop operation has been optimized, saving 50% on gas consumption. And variable speed drives now automatically control ventilation based on measured CO2 levels.
Energy management is now core to operational strategy. Dashboards are shared across teams with regular meetings to review that energy and equipment performance is being maintained, while top management tracks KPIs for energy consumption versus production output. Following these quick wins, there are plans for additional decarbonization using geothermal and solar energy installations. And all best practices are being shared with other factories to help bring them to the Gold maturity level.
Can your operations achieve this kind of success? Yes, you can take three immediate measures to help achieve energy and cost savings while complying with government mandates.
Three emergency measures to cut energy usage and costs
Schneider Electric’s highest priority is to help our European customers withstand this crisis. We’ve developed short-term emergency measures based on proven strategies and solutions that we successfully use at our facilities and hundreds of customer facilities worldwide.
Measure 1: Measure and monitor. Assess the metering capabilities of your facilities and, if necessary, install energy meters – wireless connectivity can make this affordable – and an onsite or cloud-based energy management system.
Measure 2: Automate and control. Install building control if your site is not equipped – this can be an affordable, pre-configured kit. Optimize your building management system (BMS) using eco-mode settings and other steps to enable hyper-efficiency. Consider using microgrid software for more advanced load shedding.
Measure 3: Optimize with analytics. Leverage analytics with real-time dashboards, reports, alarms, and predictive management of energy consumption.
Combining all or most of these measures can help you meet voluntary and mandatory consumption targets and cut your electricity bills.