Energy efficiency - Government pushes variable speed drives as top way to cut CO2

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Steve Ruddell, UK energy spokesperson for ABB, explains the incentives available to  industry to invest in variable speed drives, in an effort by the Government to curb CO2 emissions

In recent years there has been an influx of regulations applied to the manufacturing industry that have a major impact on energy use. In 2001 the Climate Change Levy was introduced, followed by Climate Change Agreements. Then in 2005, the EU ETS came along followed in 2008 by the Environmental Permitting Regime. And more recently, the government launched its Carbon Reduction Commitment or CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme which is due to begin widespread implementation in April 2010.

The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme was announced in the Energy White Paper 2007. It will apply mandatory emissions trading to cut carbon emissions from large non-energy intensive users in the private and public sectors. A recent report from the Environment Agency indicates the scheme has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions up to 11.6 million tonnes per year by 2020 - the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road.

CRC is designed to drive energy efficiency and carbon saving by giving organisations a financial incentive to do so through emissions trading, and combining this with Corporate Social Responsibility incentives through publishing organisations' performance in a league table.

The scheme targets organisation's annual half hourly metered (HHM) electricity use, if that's at least 6,000 Megawatt hours (MWh) they'll qualify for the scheme - or typically those that spend £500,000 a year on electricity.

All large energy users, from government departments to big-business, have to take part in the scheme from 1 April 2010.

Organisations only need to report emissions in the first year (2010/11), then in following years they will have to buy allowances matching their emissions from energy use and then surrender them by the end of the year. In the second year (2011/12) extra weighting will be given to organisations 'taking action early' to improve energy efficiency.

Organisations which use 'on-site' renewable energy like wind turbines or solar panels, by publishing the increased carbon savings from such measures, will get increased 'recognition' under the CRC.

Methods to reduce energy consumption
To reach the CRC levels there are several energy saving initiatives that can be introduced such as insulating buildings to a high standard, fitting low energy lighting, controlling building temperature to an agreed standard and fitting voltage optimisation technology. Other more detailed measures include compressor upgrades, compressed air leak survey, compressed air zoning, warm-up cycle timers, rapid roller-doors, computer linked roller-doors and smart metering. But undoubtedly the biggest impact on energy saving can come from applying variable speed drives to many of the electric motors used throughout industry and commerce.

In manufacturing, nearly 60% of immediate energy savings can be achieved by looking at more efficient motor/drive systems, according to the manufacturers' organisation, EEF. It is still a little known fact 65% of all energy used in industry is consumed by the electric motor. And yet only about 5% of this installed based has a variable speed drive to control the motor speed depending on the demand. With some 10 million motors installed throughout the UK alone, the potential savings are huge.

Record, report and reduce
Presently, many organisations are busy measuring and recording their actual energy consumption and carbon dioxide emission usage. This is an excellent start, especially if you are one of the heavy-users caught by the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme - this is simply a prerequisite. But it must be realised this is only the start.

Ultimately, the only way to look good in the government's league table will be to cut consumption. For this, all of the aforementioned methods can be introduced especially the use of variable speed drives.

ABB offers industry a free half-day energy appraisal, during which a qualified engineer will take a look at the most energy intensive applications and indicate the energy savings that can be made. The results can be staggering. Of course, an energy appraisal is only one element that companies need to consider. As a guide the EEF recommends the following:

Know where you stand
Understand what's being used and what's being wasted across your business - and what it's costing you.

Prioritise action
Prioritise the actions you'll take based on the payback each will deliver.

Make plans
Underpin your resource efficiency programme with clear objectives and targets.

Monitor and review
An environmental or energy management system will help you stay focused and make sure standards of performance are attained and then maintained. Certification to ISO 14001 or BS16001 demonstrates commitment for continuous improvement by the organisation.

The Big Business Refit
For those organisations with an energy bill less than £500,000 per annum, The Carbon Trust has launched The Big Business Refit, in which it is encouraging industry, through interest-free loans from £3,000 to £500,000, to invest in new technology like variable speed drives and energy efficient electric motors.

In addition, the Carbon Trust is now investing an extra £15m in funding to help manufacturers become more energy efficient, with a new scheme, called the Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator. It is designed to spark a ‘low carbon industrial revolution' by helping manufacturers find new energy efficient processes by which to create their products with.

Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator
Diverse manufacturers such as Britvic, Highland Spring, Tarmac and Tesco have joined trade bodies such as the Food and Drink Federation and Dairy UK in backing the new programme.
The programme is expected to reduce energy costs for manufacturers by more than half a billion pounds and to cut carbon emissions by more than three million tonnes. It will also increase the capacity of these manufacturers to respond effectively to the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

Through the Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator, the Carbon Trust aims to transform the traditional sector-specific processes that underpin British manufacturing. In partnership with industry leaders, the organisation will identify and demonstrate new, lower-carbon solutions that can be replicated widely across each sector.

Dr Mark Williamson, Carbon Trust director of innovations, said: "More than a quarter of the UK's carbon emissions come from industry and we've got to find new opportunities to reduce them. The way to make truly substantial cuts is to get to the very heart of manufacturing. By rethinking the way manufacturers operate from the ground up we plan to spearhead a low carbon industrial revolution that will not only reduce emissions but will also increase demand for innovation, generate jobs and cut costs."

Clearly, there has never been a better time to take a closer look at what the motors in your plant are doing for you.