Using new energy technologies to transform business efficiency
24 Oct 2018
New technologies will allow businesses to better control energy use in order to reduce cost and drive efficiencies, explains Centrica’s Louis Burford...
Whether it’s to drive productivity in an office or keep a manufacturing facility running, all businesses are looking for ways to maximise the output of their resources. In the industrial sector, the opportunities for delivering efficiencies are as strong as anywhere – particularly in relation to energy.
The UK industrial sector – including the steel, chemicals, glassmaking and ceramics industries – currently accounts for a quarter of the UK’s entire energy demand. Our Powering Britain’s Economic Future report found that if just 50 per cent of the sector adopted new energy technologies, it could save at least £540million on its energy bills. It would also boost productivity and grow UK GVA (gross value added) by £13.9billion.
The financial case for developing a business strategy in relation to your energy use couldn’t be clearer but, for many businesses with huge demands on the grid, it’s difficult to know where to start. If businesses are to begin investing in ways to improve energy efficiency, they must first develop a detailed understanding of how their assets draw power.
A typical manufacturing facility might have hundreds or even thousands of individual devices consuming energy. Some of these may be operating inefficiently because they are in a poor state of repair, they’re being used for a purpose for which they’re not suited or they are staying powered up for longer than they need to be.
Many of these issues will be quick and easy to tackle through the development of a preventative maintenance strategy or tweaks to working practices. But, without knowing where the priorities lie, it can be difficult or impossible for operators to know what action to take.
Knowledge is power
The first step towards mastering efficiency is to begin auditing consumption, which in turn can inform strategy. The development of sensor technology in recent years has made it possible to conduct both simple and complex energy audits that gather energy information at device level and display its use in dashboard format. Connecting wirelessly to a central receiver, the sensors tell the system exactly what each piece or group of equipment is doing in real time.
The user-friendly nature of a remote dashboard makes it possible to analyse the data and identify which equipment is performing badly, putting too much energy into the task it’s performing, or about to break.
Development of sensor technology has made it possible to conduct audits that gather energy information at device level and display its use in dashboard format
By developing a better understanding of how things are performing over time, it is possible to improve day-to-day efficiency and achieve immediate cost savings. It can also enable you to spot potential issues early on and develop a preventative maintenance plan that extends the lifetime of the equipment and reduces the frequency of costly payouts on new plant.
Energy auditing may be the first step towards efficiency savings but, crucially, it can also inform the development of company-wide energy objectives and an understanding of where strategic investment can be best implemented.
It’s clear that most businesses agree. Centrica Business Solutions surveyed more than 1,000 global businesses about their attitudes to energy. More than 85 per cent of UK organisations said that energy insights will be central to the competitive advantage of large firms by 2025. That said, only a quarter of the businesses expressing that view have a formalised energy strategy place. If businesses are to begin seizing the initiative and creating an energy strategy that delivers results, auditing is a great first step in the right direction.
Louis Burford is head of solution sales, Centrica Business Solutions