Processes Inhibit Industrial Energy Savings

May 3, 2011
An energy/automation disconnect inside manufacturing companies is restricting the amount of energy savings that can be realized, according to ARC analyst Barry Young, who spoke at the ABB Power and Automation Conference.
High oil prices are here to stay, and the cost of all energy—water, air, gas, electric or steam (WAGES)—is becoming more critical to the health of manufacturing. While the heaviest industrial users of energy are petrochemical, mining, paper, and wood, all industries are focused on reigning in their own energy costs. However, according to a recent survey by Boston-based industry analyst group ARC (, operators are not being given the power to make intelligent decisions about how and where energy is used.  In fact, embedded process inhibits energy savings.Speaking at the ABB Power and Automation Conference in Orlando, ARC analyst Barry Young said industry is the number one U.S. consumer of energy by end use sector, followed by transportation, residential and commercial entities. Process heating (fired heaters) and machine drives are the two biggest energy consumers in the manufacturing sector, and represent the best areas for energy savings opportunity.  Savings as high as 10 percent can be realized with no major investment, said Young, but a major roadblock exists. “Automation and electrification are separate islands, and operators have no view into the power side. They cannot identify or take advantage of energy savings,” he said.  

No energy czar

According to a recent ARC survey, 41.9 percent of companies polled still have no energy czar, 42 percent have no energy team in place, and fewer have a seat for the automation team member at the table.Only 27 percent of companies are monitoring energy in real time, and most have no energy related key performance indicators (KPIs) for operators.  They might be monitoring energy, but not for operators, Young said.  Management may fear putting actual financial information in operators’ hands, but KPIs don’t have to be real numbers, he said. “A simple example could be ‘red light, yellow light, green light’ for an operator to know best consumption times under a variable rate pricing structure.”For 49 percent of companies, energy is not part of active process control. “IEC 61850 is an Ethernet-based solution that provides tight integration between automation and power systems,” said Young. “It is the fieldbus for electrical [systems]. Adoption, however, has been slow due to the learning curve.”Why integrate power generation with electrical consumption?  One reason is that 64 percent of all power consumed by energy comes from motors, said Young, and in a year the average motor can consume 10 times its initial cost.In addition, “44 percent of all motor failure can actually be prevented by monitoring voltage condition and overload,” according to Young. So energy monitoring and measurement can help diagnostics.

Obstacles to savings

Young’s talk sparked comments from attendees at the ABB Power and Automation Conference and revealed additional examples of the energy/automation disconnect. With potential savings of 10 percent, who wouldn’t want to integrate automation and energy?  One end user said proposed energy plans at his company called for a two-year payback, but there were several other initiatives at his plant with quicker yields, so the energy plan was shelved.

A chemical processor noted lack of the most basic instrumentation for separating his facility into areas so he could determine the most basic energy consumption data.  “We go to the meters and write it down on clipboards and that’s about it,” he said

Young said U.S. power consumption is actually trending down, but rates continue to increase and can be variable in any 24-hour period. It’s clear with rising rates, measuring energy consumption, and maximizing efficiency will become more critical.  Automation and electrification must integrate. Not only do plants have to form energy teams, automation professionals must be given a seat at the table.

Jim Chrzan, [email protected], is Publisher of Automation World.


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