Energy efficiency as a key enabler

Every energy consumer can contribute

As members of the European Community, we have the commitment to fulfill the overall 20/20/20 targets: they are referred to as the reduction of 20% in energy consumption thanks to energy efficiency techniques, to the reduction of 20% in carbon footprint emissions, to the increasing of 20% of the energy generated from renewable sources.

These goals were fixed in 2009 before the economic recession. Now these targets sound even more challenging than before. But do we have a real choice or do we even really have choice?

We are witnessing the rising costs of raw materials and labor as well as the aging of plants, infrastructure and labor force. On the other hand we are living in an age of rapid innovations in technology and the growing demand for energy. At the same time, everyone has an increased awareness of environmental issues, including global warming and carbon footprint.

True that new plants, sites and buildings are being erected in a more sustainable way, but unfortunately this was not the case in the past when we invested without much consideration to these factors. And now, for more-than-20-year-old sites, improved efficiency offers a great opportunity in consumption reduction.

On average power plants consume up to 7% of the electricity they generate, while industrial sites account for around 33% of global energy use and buildings account for nearly 40% of energy consumed. These figures could be cut by 10% to 30% by optimizing the various processes and systems that run the plants.

From another perspective, it is interesting to note that energy efficiency, in order to become effective, must be adopted widely across energy producers and consumers. Everyone needs to make a contribution.

This calls for a comprehensive approach or as we call it in ABB, a 360-degrees methodology. This approach starts with an Energy Audit and the consequent cost/benefit analysis and leads to the identification of opportunities to reduce consumption and increase efficiency. The implementation of technological solutions is followed up by the constant measurement and verification of the expected results parameters to ensure proper monitoring and optimal performance.

There are many successful case studies included in ABB experience in the application of modern technologies where the reduction of energy reached  up to 25% per site or per specific application. If each energy producer and every energy consumer could be more aware of the potential they would perhaps call it a ‘no-brainer’.

Energy Efficiency could even be the “first gear” to move the economy from its current idle position where is currently “parked”.

What is needed is the awareness that investment in energy efficiency has a clear payback and brings both short-term and long-term benefits that can impact the top and bottomline.

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About the author

Flavio Ferrera

I am the Energy Efficiency Manager for ABB’s Power Systems division in Italy. I have more than 10 years of experience in power plant engineering design, operation and maintenance. The everyday rhythm of modern life is pushing us to act faster, produce more, and perform better. But if we stop and consider the efficiency of the process we are trying to run faster, we might just see that “faster” is not the answer. “More efficient” could easily bring the same rewards for the bottom line, and the environment will also thank us!
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