May/June 2010

A holistic approach to energy management

By Matt Lorenz

The world's demand for power is growing, while resources are diminishing. In the next 20 years, the world's demand for energy is projected to double. Businesses are demanding solutions delivering increased uptime and extended equipment life, while keeping their personnel safe. Strategic power management gives organizations a significant advantage-saving energy and costs, improving sustainability and making businesses more socially conscious.

Emerging technologies are helping us meet energy challenges while addressing reliability, safety, and efficiency concerns.

Reducing energy consumption

Developing new technologies and solutions with alternative and renewable energy sources will help us meet today's energy challenges. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) along with state and local initiatives are spurring energy efficiency trends. The stimulus spending is driving demand for energy efficient products and services.

Businesses should take advantage of alternative fuel, clean energy, and opportunities to conserve energy. For example, new and sophisticated motor control technology impacts energy efficiency and yields more efficient, finely tuned controls. New, advanced algorithms are improving the energy efficiency of variable frequency drive systems, yielding added energy savings over the already 10 to 50% improvement resulting from installing a drive. In simple applications, soft starters are able to control and lower the demands on a motor, conserving energy and extending the life of the mechanical system.

Businesses also should take full advantage of stimulus funding and other energy efficiency opportunities and incentives. Given growing budgetary pressures and emphasis on increased efficiency, sustainability also makes good economic sense.

A collaborative effort must be made to solve environmental and energy challenges. Working with industry, the public sector, and academia to continue to develop state-of-the-art solutions and events such as Energy Evolution 2010 (www.energyevolution2010.com) are a catalyst for this collaboration. Recent events brought together regional/national energy management leaders and highlighted new technology to help us move forward on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Improving reliability, efficiency

Power control and automation solutions help organizations advance efficiency, reduce costs, and improve reliability, while reducing energy consumption. Consequently, organizations are becoming more apt to consider a spectrum of control and automation solutions. For instance, new, advanced motor protective relays provide monitoring capabilities, diagnostics, and motor and pump protection in a single device, helping customers reduce downtime and protect investments. Businesses are increasingly seeking smaller PLCs with the power and flexibility of large ones-helping companies manage costs and increase overall efficiency.

In essence, improving reliability and efficiency and decreasing energy consumption drives down the total cost of ownership, impacting facilities' decisions. For instance, energy consumption can be up to 90% of the total costs of owning a pump. Maintenance and repair are significant components of a pumping system's life-cycle costs, and an effective predictive maintenance program can minimize these costs.

Strategic power management 

Often, the power system is a disparate collection of equipment that does not always work in harmony to deliver the optimal level of reliability, safety, or operating costs. Because a power system changes as a business evolves, it can become more complicated, inefficient, and difficult to manage over time.

Enterprises can achieve a competitive advantage through proactive management of the power system as a strategic, integrated asset throughout its life-cycle. Broad solutions, including distribution, control and power quality equipment; full-scale engineering services; and information management systems, are designed to work together to produce powerful benefits.

Increasingly, we are finding our smartest customers taking a comprehensive approach to managing operations and energy requirements, which yields dividends. They are able to maintain vital operations with steady, high-quality power; reduce operating costs with effective energy strategies; put their capital to work faster and keep it working longer; reduce electrical hazards with safety-conscious design and installation; reduce the risk of construction delays and cost overruns with a coordinated approach to power system design, procurement, installation, and maintenance. If we engage in a holistic approach to energy management, we will turn our energy challenges into opportunities.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Lorenz is vice president/general manager of the Industrial Control Division at Eaton Corporation.