Drives & Controls Magazine September 2023

34 n ENERGY EFFICIENCY September 2023 need to have the respect and support of their colleagues to see it through. Young people are also helping to drive change. As consumers, they’re more discerning, and place more value in a company’s sustainability credentials. Meanwhile the younger generation of engineers coming through are increasingly passionate about protecting the environment. This is helping to shift the dial, but I think what is making older generations really sit up and take notice is the fact that saving energy simply makes good financial sense. Energy bills are likely to remain high, and as long as that remains the case, energy managers will have their work cut out in the coming years. martin-richardson The biggest barrier is access to capital Gareth Jones UK Drives Manager, ABB ENERGY EFFICIENCY IS NO LONGER a choice or a “nice to have”. Last year’s extreme energy price rises genuinely sunk businesses, so energy efficiency needs to be a key competence in any company, but particularly in industries where energy use is already very high. I agree with Martin that energy managers need to have authority and be able to effect change. It’s easy to put this position three levels down the operations chain, but they need to have real power to make bold changes from the very top, because that’s what is needed. In the current climate, failing to take efficiency seriously can be the difference between survival and failure. This summer, we’ve seen headlines all around the world underlining why we need to act fast to address climate change, but even aside from the wider goals of reaching net-zero, businesses simply must reduce costs, and energy efficiency is one of the best ways to achieve this. Where I disagree with Martin is where change is coming from. I don’t subscribe to the idea that it’s only younger people driving this. The important attribute is attitude and I see this demonstrated positively across all age groups. What is becoming clearer to everyone is an understanding that climate change is going to impact all of us. The biggest barrier we see for energy managers is access to capital. We could demonstrate a nine-month payback on fitting a drive to an application, but these projects often falter. Sometimes it’s because the energy manager simply doesn’t have the authority to move things forward. However, sometimes it’s because people don’t trust the data. This is a big problem. At ABB we go to great lengths to prove any claims we make so that our customers can have confidence in their investments. Capital is a precious resource, with multiple departments fighting over a finite amount. My colleague Rob Wood says that it’s not so much about the actual savings but how you get there. I agree – up to a point – but, ultimately, energy managers are judged on cold, hard KPIs. Before any investment, they have to build a watertight case, and after the fact they will also need to justify it with results. Sensor technologies can help here. ABB’s Smart Sensors for instance can be used to analyse the health of powertrain equipment to facilitate predictive maintenance, and can also release a lot of efficiency data that was previously hidden. Energy managers might not realise just how easy and cost-effective it is to measure energy usage, not just on the motor or drive, but across the whole powertrain, with data they can trust. Now it’s the turn of the motors Rob Wood Divisional Manager, Motors & Generators, ABB THE MODERN ENERGY MANAGER should have access to all the information they need to make good and reasonable decisions, but as Martin and Gareth have said, they also need to be empowered to take action based on that data. From a motors perspective, my message to my esteemed colleagues in the drives business is: “Drives have had their time, now it’s motors’ turn”. Installing a drive on a motor can save you a lot of energy for sure. However, previously the motor was often ignored and a drive was installed only for its energy savings, with no consideration for changing the motor. So with the low-hanging fruit now gone, it’s time to consider the impact of changing the motor for a more efficient design. Martin points out that 20 years ago an energy manager was often an add-on job for a maintenance engineer, and he’s right, because that’s exactly what my father-in-law did. However, back in those days, energy management was all about getting the best price from the energy provider, rather than digging deep to squeeze every last drop of efficiency out of each application and system. Motors are a prime candidate for efficiency improvements, particularly with the way that motor technology has moved on in the past decade. However, you need to be strategic about it, and consider any upgrades within the context of an effective motor management policy. This helps to ensure that you’re upgrading the right motors at the right time, and for the right reasons – all underpinned by the proper use of data. Digitalisation and sensor technologies mean that sophisticated efficiency data can now easily be obtained from motors in operation, but the challenge for energy managers is in interpreting and contextualising this data on an application-by-application basis. Sometimes it can be wise to repair an old motor, and sometimes it can be wise to replace. It all depends on the nuances of the application, the motor itself, and other factors such as access to repair and rewind capabilities. Legislation has also been a game-changer when it comes to improving motor efficiency. EU MEPS forced a move to more efficient motors. This, in turn, helped to make the business case more compelling for replacing or upgrading, as big jumps in efficiency are now possible with minimal investment. What does this all mean for energy managers? Well, 20 or 30 years ago you would typically replace a motor only if you really had to, and any energy savings were a welcome bonus. Incremental efficiency improvements of a few percent were not worth ripping out and replacing equipment for, and there’s also a circularity argument when it comes to disposing of old motors. However, the way motor technology has come on means that we’re no longer talking about a few percentage point improvements in energy efficiency. The difference between an old Eff 2 motor and a new IE5 design is significant, and when considering partial load duties, this can increase even further. With current energy prices, payback times that were previously measured in years are now reduced to a matter of months, and this has changed the equation when it comes to replacing motors. A good energy manager needs to be aware that it’s not just about how much you save in the end, but how you go about achieving it. This means identifying where the big-ticket opportunities are which, in turn, means understanding the nature of any applications identified, and what the wider implications will be for any changes made. An energy manager who can do all of this will be able to make the smartest decisions. rob-wood-78351830