Many organizations think of energy conservation as an important tool for controlling direct costs and increasing productivity. It is — but it’s also much more than that. It’s a vital element of the drive to meet global mandates requiring organizations to significantly reduce their carbon footprints.
Industry is the biggest user of energy in the U.S., accounting for almost one-third of annual consumption, so it’s a prime target for national and global energy reduction initiatives.
Last August, President Barack Obama unveiled a whole array of public and private sector commitments to transition the U.S. to a cleaner energy economy. The goal by 2030 is to double U.S. energy productivity and lower greenhouse gas emissions by one-third below the 2005 benchmark.
- Reduce environmental damage.
- Reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
- Reduce costs. The August initiative promises $327 billion in savings annually.
- Reduce risks. Increased energy consumption raises exposure to supply shortages and price hikes.
But none of this can be done without astute energy management by industrial organizations through technological innovation, real-time data, and control systems automation.
Convergence to drive energy resource management
The convergence of these elements — technology, data, and automation — will likely be the biggest driver of efficient energy resource management in the coming years.
For example, a study by the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (ZVEI) found that demand-driven automation technology alone could deliver energy savings of between 10% and 25% across the European nation.
U.S. industry is looking for a similar reduction. Not only would reduced usage lower production costs and improve an organization’s competitive position, it would also respond to increasingly stringent stakeholder expectations of sound environmental credentials and meet legislative requirements.
Process automation is, of course, a catch-all term for a wide range of tools. A special report for Hydrocarbon Processing magazine, for instance identifies the following types of controls for supporting energy conservation measures:
- Instrumentation and sensors for accurate physical variable measurements
- Performance monitoring software to exploit real-time data processing and reporting
- Improved control tools, such as computer-aided base controllers
- Management systems for process information (PIMS), library information (LIMS), and manufacturing execution (MES)
The report notes that “Implementing better monitoring, control, and optimization strategies improves energy performance directly, through reduced waste (very often associated with undue oscillations in main process parameters), and indirectly, through better maintenance practices that help to prevent an increase in energy use due to plant downtime and the resulting startup and shutdown processes, as well as defective products.”
Taking a functional perspective
Another way of looking at and selecting the tools for efficient control systems automation is to take a functional perspective.
Siemens suggests there are four levels of automation components for energy efficiency in the production process.
- Management Level — covering data acquisition, energy cost determination, energy planning, and energy purchasing
- Operation and Monitoring Level — software for checking energy usage data, performance, and report generation
- Control Level — tools for advanced process control and asset management of mechanical components
- Field Level — measuring devices for energy flows, power electronics for motors, energy saving motors, stabilized power supplies, and electro-pneumatic positioners
Whichever way you look at it, for both energy savings and compliance, the right combination of automation components is essential in today’s industrial processes.