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Energy Efficiency

Energy Performance Improvement at Agrial

A pragmatic, financially secure approach combines energy expertise and a commitment to achievable savings.

Agrial is hitting its ROI target in under three years, furthering the company’s goal of cutting energy costs by 10 percent.

Schneider Electric recently announced it’s supporting Agrial, one of the leading cooperatives in the French agriculture and agri-food industry, in developing a program aimed at continuous energy performance improvement — an ethical as well as economically and environmentally advantageous approach.

“We found that taxation, transport costs, and energy-related expenditures never stop growing,” said David Delalande, Director of Purchasing for the Agrial Group. “To maintain our margins and our competitiveness, we had to initiate a new approach to energy efficiency.”

At its Château-Salins plant, one of 24 industrial sites in France, the company manufactures 50,000 metric tons of dairy products each year. After moving along a production line, containers of yogurt and desserts make their way to cold rooms to be sterilized. The motors and lights, and refrigeration and steam systems required to support these operations consume 40 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually. Because Château-Salins is so energy intensive, it was chosen as a pilot for the energy performance program, along with facilities in Rennes and Domagné.

Reducing energy consumption by 10 percent by 2025

Following a call for tenders, Agrial selected energy management and sustainability specialist Schneider Electric to support a multi-stage approach aimed at cutting kWh consumption by 10 percent by 2025 across all Agrial sites.

Reaching this target will also help Agrial to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, in accordance with its corporate social responsibility ambitions.

The project began with the selection of sites that exhibited high potential for energy optimization and were representative of each of Agrial’s divisions, including Château-Salins. The first step in the process was to analyze the facilities to find improvement opportunities and underlying energy savings.

Benjamin Bruet, Director of Energy Management Services at Schneider Electric said: “We worked closely with Agrial to develop a pragmatic program. After checking the three pilot sites, our experts performed a detailed audit of equipment and consumption to accurately assess potential energy savings and the work necessary to achieve them.”

Each site’s technical and commercial plans were then checked before moving on to the operational phase, which included advanced controls for processing equipment, improvements to boilers, modifications to cold units and air compressors, LED re-lamping, etc. — followed by signing an energy performance contract stipulating a commitment to savings achieved.

Facilitating change management and continuous improvement

At the same time, Schneider Electric implemented an energy monitoring tool that gives Agrial one standard solution for monitoring consumption, tracking performance, detecting other potential savings, and producing long-lasting outcomes.

“With this approach, we’re leading a change management operation,” said Joël Labyt, Director of Industrial Performance for Agrial’s Dairy Division. “We are on a trajectory of continuous improvement that should enable teams on the ground to take ownership of our day-to-day energy performance initiatives and increase their proficiency.”

Delivering significant results that beat forecasts

At the Château-Salins site, the results have been substantial.

“We completed the re-lamping work, added advanced controls to pasteurizers and sterilizers, optimized our water treatment plant, and renovated our cold production rooms and thermal insulation,” Labyt said. “These initiatives were offset by energy savings with an ROI of under three years. Two additional efficiency measures are planned. And in three years, the site’s energy bill will have decreased by 10 percent. In addition, the signs point to this reduction continuing.”

“Schneider Electric has provided us with a robust offering that is process-driven and simple. And it’s a secure investment thanks to the performance contract,” Delalande said. “We have benefited from having a single contact that’s capable of simultaneously offering tailored solutions, including those for specific processes, managing all stakeholders, implementing the approach internationally [improvements at three Spanish sites are in progress], and providing expertise across all markets.”

Because of the success at the Agrial sites in Château-Salins, Rennes, and Domagné — which created and validated a model for the company — 20 other sites have been studied for their potential, seven of which have been selected to benefit from the same energy optimization approach.