Europe is in the middle of an unprecedented energy crisis. With limited Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) capacity and the flow of natural gas from Russia halted, much of Europe is at a tipping point. The shortage of natural gas could have an unparalleled impact on Europe’s quality of life, the economy, and the environment. This crisis has already caused gas and electricity spot prices to increase three-fold across many European countries since January. Without immediate action, prices could surge even higher this winter and gas rationing could be instituted to maintain grid stability.
Without the ability to quickly add local supply, the EU is choosing to balance the market by reducing demand while subsidizing consumption. In July, the EU Commission, the executive arm of the EU, agreed on a voluntary target to reduce gas use by 15% until March 2023. Additionally, in September, the Commission recommended that Europeans reduce their electricity consumption by 10% overall and passed a mandatory reduction target of 5% during peak hours.
As a result, European companies are racing to reduce their energy usage ahead of the coming winter when demand for natural gas increases along with costs.
In one example, German materials company Covestro reported using digital sensors to monitor its steam traps, ensuring that they use steam as efficiently as possible in production. Dr. Markus Steilemann, CEO of Covestro, further stated, "In particular, the unparalleled price increases for fossil fuels show that Covestro's strategic focus on becoming fully circular is the right path. Our products are vital in paving the way for a fossil-free future."
And Covestro is not alone. Sanofi, a global healthcare manufacturer, sees the energy crisis as an opportunity to accelerate its efficiency and sustainability efforts. The company has set up a scalable energy management program across its facilities portfolio with the goal of reducing energy use by 15%. As an example, the company is deploying equipment and controls for HVAC, heat pump, utility, and incinerator systems in a global and holistic manner across its portfolio. Metering and monitoring technologies are also deployed extensively to better track the performance of sites and correct consumption drifts and anomalies.
3 strategies for quick results
We spoke with our experts at Schneider Electric to compile three strategies to help you and your organization prepare your facilities for the coming winter. While no two facilities are the same, the following steps provide a helpful pathway that nearly any business can implement to drive down energy usage and cut costs.
Contributed by: Rémi Deveaux, Sustainability Solutions Sales Leader, Schneider Electric
1. Understand your energy use
Measuring and monitoring energy usage allows for the maximization of power system availability and reliability. Measuring also optimizes energy and operational efficiency with the highest level of granularity (per each floor, zone, room, load, application, and equipment). With the right data in place, it becomes possible to proactively identify power quality issues that could cause outages and increase operational costs. Using insights from reporting tools, it is possible to meet or exceed your power reliability requirements within your budget constraints – before energy supply levels are critical.
Energy monitoring allows you to track energy consumption in real-time, identify inefficiencies and make decisions on where and how to save energy and perform load shedding. State-of-the-art sensors and controls can curtail or manage 10–20% of commercial building peak load.
2. Introduce efficient technologies
If not already present on site, a building management system (BMS) like EcoStruxure Building Operation, demonstrated in the graphic below, further increases energy savings. Integrating advanced sensors and controls into most facilities can result in a 20% reduction in energy consumption of the building.
Alternatively, you can utilize Building Automation Optimization for Winter to program an existing BMS for wintertime to save energy bills without compromising comfort. Examples of BMS fine-tuning services include:
- HVAC schedule control adjustment and optimal setpoints: A substantial percentage of the energy and costs used when powering HVAC systems is lost to waste. However, HVAC systems that have been optimized for our clients resulted in up to 30% of annual energy savings through low to no-cost operational measures.
- Lighting control adjustments: Lighting energy savings of 10% to 90% are possible depending on room usage. One study on a university campus found that installing wired occupancy sensors to control the lighting within 200 rooms in 10 different buildings provided an annual cost savings of about $11,900.
- Occupancy Sensors: Occupancy sensors can reduce energy waste by as much as 68% and increase energy savings by as much as 60%, according to a new study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Replacing inefficient equipment, even before the end of its useful life, with new best-in-class efficient equipment can lead to immediate energy savings, typically with relatively short payback times, and can reduce reliance on fossil fuel sources.
3. Optimize with analytics
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) may sound just like new-age buzzwords. But increasingly, they are essential elements that building owners and operators rely on to use their Internet of things (IoT) data more efficiently to decarbonize facility operations. These technologies can analyze and act on the large amount of data that IoT-connected devices generate in microseconds, thus streamlining building automation.
These 3 strategies focus on data management to quickly act on the energy performance of commercial buildings and industrial facilities. Additional levers can be activated now to prepare for future winters and mitigate exposure to highly volatile and bullish energy markets.
Fuel switching is a good example of another lever businesses are using. More and more technologies are now available to electrify gas-powered equipment for process or building needs. Combined with energy conservation measures, electrification may improve operational performance, save energy overall, and enable businesses to adopt green sourcing more easily with the use of renewable electricity. Initial studies to identify electrification potential and the associated costs and benefits (from both a financial and environmental perspective) must be launched soon, by early 2023, to design and build electrification projects before the arrival of the 2023/2024 winter.
Learn more about managing through the EU energy crisis
It’s not too late to winter-ready your facilities and meet EU gas and electricity reduction targets. Taking these initial steps will not only reduce short-term energy stresses but also serve to jumpstart an enterprise-wide transformation towards a cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy system.
For more information on how your company can tackle your top priorities with energy efficiency and sustainability, we invite you to watch the recording of our recent webinar: New Opportunities for Energy Efficiency in Industry.