Preparing to maximise facility and plant energy management
By Nathan Rogers, Sustainability Leader at Lycopodium Process Industries
Wednesday, 26 May, 2021
I reflected recently that it’s impossible to expect industrial facility operators to remain fully acquainted with cutting-edge energy efficiency developments. It is perhaps more accurate to describe this expectation as unfair, rather than impossible. It’s unfair to expect that an operator will have the time, the data, the tools, the knowledge, the budget and the trusted suppliers to assess every possible energy alternative — whilst also conducting their day job of keeping the facility running efficiently and effectively.
Let’s take a look at the above list in greater detail, as we address how an operator can become energy-management ready, to give themselves and their facility the best chance at energy-efficient operational success.
Always a delicate balance, time in this context means that energy management must be a part of the operator’s position description and that they can devote dedicated time to the task. The best way to gain buy-in for adding energy management to the position description is to communicate the benefits of energy management: reinforcing your social licence to operate; sustainability credentials (internally and externally); that it is looked on favourably by regulatory authorities; and the obvious fiscally responsible component of reducing energy costs.
As the old saying goes: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. This step is vital to performing effective energy management. Ensuring that your facility has sufficient metering and monitoring equipment (and that it is correctly calibrated) will provide a clear picture of how your facility operates. Many modern control and SCADA systems may have data gathering and storage functionality available already.
All the data in the world will be useless without the capability to interpret and use that data. Do you have the right analytical software tools to easily turn raw data into a readable/understandable form to make the right decisions about where opportunities lie and how significant an opportunity is?
You have the time, the information and the necessary tools — but do you know what to do next? How to draw conclusions from the information you’ve generated? A web search will uncover courses available for energy managers — try to focus on courses from credible institutions that are endorsed by associations and councils within the energy management industry. These institutions may also be able to provide case studies for your particular facility type, where you can research and make contact with others who have achieved success.
Similar to the Time section, a financial business case should be presented to management. Beyond that, grant funding is frequently made available at the state and federal level for energy improvement opportunities. Subscribing to these departments’ mailing lists will keep you informed of when an opportunity may present itself to gain additional funding for your project.
Again, unless you can contact industry bodies or associations for a trusted list of technology and solution providers you may be hard-pressed to navigate who is genuine and who is not.
Without the support of management, receiving the necessary time and/or budget may prove too difficult for operating personnel to frame appropriately into a planned strategy. In such instances it might make sense to outsource to a consultant with a strict contract in place, ensuring that any upgrades that move to implementation are covered by an energy performance contract. This links the consultant to some or all of the financial risk if the benefits are not realised.
Whilst it is unfair to expect operators to be across all aspects of energy management, most are intimately aware of the nuances of their facility and in many cases have significant ability to input into an energy assessment process. As such it is important to harness their involvement and knowledge; these tips should help guide them into taking the first steps towards planning for the success of future energy-saving projects.
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