While there are many definitions for energy management, they mostly focus on maximizing profits or minimizing costs through lower energy consumption. However, it’s rare to see actual practical examples of how one actually goes about achieving these desirable goals and that’s because the solution is a great deal more complex than switching off something when it’s not in use.
Swaziland, South Africa — There are no best practice guides for specific industries and, insofar as electricity is concerned, only the incoming supply is usually measured and these data disappear into storage rarely to be seen again. Monitoring systems tend to only provide historical analysis tools and don’t offer any control functions. But electricity isn’t the only cost — what about, air, steam, water, gas, etc. And, most important, where does one start?
It Starts Right Here
Before diving in and installing technology, it’s important to understand that energy management involves a culture change in the company and a different way of looking at the broader picture. Conco was fortunate in accepting and understanding the following long before the project started:
Mastering the fundamentals — It’s vital to instill an energy efficiency culture through executive leadership, goal reviews etc. and then to:
- Track energy performance for all operations
- Extend energy accountability to the line/ shift/product level rather than in the catch-all “overheads” basket
- Monitor the performance of assets and technology choices
- Measure the effectiveness of the facility’s location
- Balance more assured returns of energy project investments against lower initial returns in the long term
Taking a longer and broader view about strategic decisions
Energy can be seen as a lever for positive growth and change within the business, not simply a cost. It’s possible to make the most of the strategic value of energy by thinking in terms of “Embedded Energy” and “Energy Productivity.”
Creating awareness about the way energy is managed, procured and used — It’s important to be innovative and aggressive in pursuing and publicizing new product and service offerings based on new energy technologies and suppliers.
Creating contingent strategies for emergent future scenarios
This involves rehearsing specific aspects of the future, including substantial and sustained swings in energy price and supply, severe weather events and penalties or incentives around energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. It also means actively managing exposure to risks, and readying plans to take full advantage of what the future brings and which “road ahead” is emerging.
Taking personal action
Evolving from ISO14001 to ISO50001 — Whereas ISO 14001:2004 specifies requirements for an environmental management system, ISO 50001:2011 specifies requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining and improving an energy management system, whose purpose is to enable an organization to follow a systematic approach in achieving continual improvement of energy performance, including energy efficiency, energy use and consumption.
Corporate leaders can take a number of “to-do” actions today for tomorrow. All can be taken individually, in companies, on corporate boards and across industry.
- Reduce energy consumption by 20% in one year.
- Formulate a series of strategic initiatives that would enlist the commitment of corporate management and create employee awareness while helping meet departmental targets and investing in tools that assist with energy management.
- Formulate a series of tactical initiatives that would optimize energy usage on the shop floor. These would include charging forklifts and running cold rooms only during off-peak periods, running the dust extractors only during working hours and basing lights and air-conditioning on someone’s presence.
- Increase visibility into the factory and other processes.
- Enable limited, non-intrusive control functions for certain processes.
One of the most important initiatives was to form a focus group to drive down energy costs.
“We shifted out priority to reducing energy cost rather than usage,” says Wiseman Magagula, automation engineer at Coca-Cola Swaziland. “After all, if a process requires 500kWh there is not a lot that can be done about it apart from shaving off say 5% energy usage, but if the process is shifted to non-peak hours, costs can be reduced significantly. This just goes to show that energy cost need not be dependent on energy usage.”
When the first results were made available they came as a shock
Notably, this was the first time that measurements included data from sources other than the mains supply.
Coca-Cola Swaziland selected system integrator Systems Anywhere Coastal for the implementation of the energy management project who, in turn, selected a range of software solutions from the Invensys stable. These solutions included the System Platform, Historian and Client, InTouch SCADA / HMI, Information Server and SmartGlance for mobile reporting.
“The company had its own ideas about usage and cost and did not accept these initial figures,” says Kotze. “But after the Swaziland Electricity Company validated the results and achieved a discrepancy of less than 1%, the business completely bought into the system.”
The InTouch system keeps operators informed on the exact real-time status of the plant and its various departments while management is kept informed on their smart phones via the SmartGlance mobile reporting facility. This real-time information availability allows for the study of cause-and-effect scenarios which were previously invisible to everyone.
- Visibility into energy usage and cost per plant and subsection
- Implementation of smarter energy usage/cost control protocols
- Tighter grip on corporate departmental budgets and targets
- Ability to control high energy operations to take place during low-cost periods
- Business/people awareness of their immediate impact on energy cost
Passive monitoring of energy usage is never going to achieve the desired results – energy needs to be controlled and the only way to do that is to incorporate it into the manufacturing process. After all, energy can be regarded as a raw material, just like any other, which is transformed by the process into added-value goods. To that degree, it can be accurately allocated to the manufacturing costs of individual items if necessary and that level of knowledge empowers people to make the right decisions and take control rather than being the victims of soaring costs.