Measuring energy consumption in manufacturing – You can’t control what you don’t know

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Despite rising energy costs and an increasing number of taxes for carbon and energy use, many manufacturers still don’t have a detailed or accurate picture of how, when and where they’re energy costs are in their facilities.

As an energy management consultant, I spend my days working with manufacturers at their sites to better understand their energy bills and mix, metered usage and end use breakdown. Because the bottom line is – you can’t control what you can’t measure.

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Energy bills

It’s amazing how often manufacturers I work with simply pay their energy bills without fully understanding what a kilowatt hour (kWh) is, what meters are read or what their energy mix is (for example, if they use 70% gas, 30% electricity).

During my examinations, I’ve uncovered a company being charged in cubic metres rather than cubic feet and another company that was charged for electricity board meters they didn’t even have!

Verifying energy bills are accurate is a first step towards understanding where energy costs are, such as carbon taxes, daily standing charges and connection charges.  Furthermore, this will ensure you are only paying money for energy consumption you are actually using rather than estimations.

 

Metered usage

Too many manufacturers still rely on estimated readings for energy costs or pay their energy bills without properly analysing them. Only an expertly designed and installed metering system will deliver accurate data in half-hourly periods. This type of data helps identify phantom loads (such as HVAC systems that are not going into setback mode at night) and peaks and troughs in energy use.

This type of precise metering and sub-metering on specific machinery and production lines, allows manufacturers to produce important management analysis, such as kWs used per 100 products produced. Such metering can also help to determine which of their sites is producing the most productivity as an output with the least energy input as well as production lines. And, based, on my experience working with other UK manufacturers, I can help manufacturers compare their data to industry and regional best practices.

 

Energy end use

In order to identify the best energy reduction projects, it is vital for a manufacturer to know where their energy is being used. Is it on machinery? Lighting? Office equipment and electronics? HVAC? Answering these questions accurately will help develop an accurate cost-benefit analysis for any upgrades or changes.

Another important piece of my work with manufacturers is helping their management team understand how big a piece of their costs energy represents. Is it 10% of a company’s monthly variable expenditure? How would an energy improvement, such as replacing all the lighting with LEDs which can be around 70% more energy efficient compared to other lighting, affect not just energy costs, but also maintenance costs, workplace wellbeing and productivity?

 

The way forward

Of course, measuring consumption is just one part of an effective energy management strategy. EEF works with companies to develop an overarching strategic approach to energy savings that allows for effective and efficient implementation of improvement programmes against a strong business case for change.

Author

This person has now left EEF. Please contact us on 0808 168 1874 or email us at enquiries@eef.org.uk if you have any questions.

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