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Do you have 20/20 energy vision?

27 June 2021

Taking energy efficiency and carbon saving to the next level requires full visibility of how energy is being used across an entire site or multiple sites, says John Hyde

Full visibility means looking well beyond data from utility meters  and on-site generators – it means drilling down and find out what's happening at an equipment and process level. 

After all, the more that is known about energy usage, the better it can be managed and if energy intelligence is lacking, it is not possible to know where waste is occurring or to identify the best opportunities to make savings, plan more expansive carbon reduction strategies, or use power more flexibly to generate revenue.

Growing numbers of manufacturing  companies are recognising how  Internet of Things (IoT) energy insights technology can drive competitive and environmental advantage.  

By capturing, analysing  and visualising real-time energy data from across the complete estate – including individual devices  –  an integrated energy management strategy can be created for improved business performance.

The benefits of advanced monitoring reach beyond energy cost and carbon saving. Food manufacturers are also achieving impressive operational and business resilience improvements. 

Companies throughout the food and beverage industry supply chain rely on critical, energy-intensive assets that are notoriously fickle when it comes to performance. Increasingly, these companies are turning to next-generation energy management systems that consist of wireless energy monitoring equipment, enabling them to gain insight into critical assets and ensure operational efficiency and performance – and prevent risk of costly downtime.

Game changing technology
IoT technologies provide deep energy insights at a circuit-level of granularity. The technology works  by linking a cloud-based analytics platform to both utility meters and wireless sensors that monitor critical assets, such as energy intensive equipment and processes, HVAC components, lighting systems, refrigerators, etc. The self-powered sensors are non-invasive and can be speedily snapped onto the outgoing electrical wire that powers each device, without disrupting operations. 

The sensors and third-party utility meters continuously collect critical energy data and deliver it in real-time to an energy management platform, such as Centrica’s PowerRadar system. In this way, manufacturers can benefit from  a single, holistic view of their energy footprint. 

With full visibility of energy performance, at the required level of detail, it is possible to holistically manage consumption to inform sustainable energy and
operational strategies. This can deliver five key benefits: 

1. Cut energy costs and carbon emissions: Rising raw material, energy and labour costs, stagnating consumer incomes, intense competition, and pricing pressures from retailers, all put pressure on food industry profit margins. By monitoring energy usage at a device-level, hidden areas of waste can be identified. This creates opportunities for high impact energy efficiency improvements that can deliver big cost savings.  Energy insights can also inform and influence employee behaviour change to further improve energy performance.

Consuming less energy means lower carbon emissions, enabling food processors to respond to increasing environmental pressures from consumers, regulators and other stakeholders. 

2. Improve production efficiency: Device-level data often drives higher production efficiency  – improving resilience to reduce downtime and protect food quality.

Anomalies picked up by the energy analytics software can be symptomatic of deep-lying faults in equipment, or weaknesses in operational performance that are difficult to detect.  Data intelligence can also inform maintenance requirements, including predictive alerts, to reduce downtime, increase productivity and extend asset life. It is sometimes possible to identify potential equipment failures even before they happen. 

If all machinery and equipment is connected to an energy management platform that is tracking performance 24/7 and can be configured to send real-time alerts when there is a potential issue with asset performance, then managers can rest easy. Take, for example, the example of an air conditioning or refrigeration system in a warehouse that optimises food quality prior to customer delivery.  If managers can be alerted the second a potential equipment malfunction happens – they can take immediate action to identify and fix the problem – preventing a significant loss of produce and revenue – while ensuring equipment is operating properly and efficiently.

3. Drive revenue from energy flexibility: Utilise the data gathered from wireless sensors to inform demand side response (DSR) opportunities. For example, businesses gain a clear understanding of how they can shift loads to avoid peak time power costs and where they have flexible power capacity to generate revenue from DSR grid balancing markets. Many Centrica customers use PowerRadar platform to help optimise energy flexibility. 

4. Simplify energy and carbon reporting for compliance: With increasing regulatory and legislative oversight of Scope1, 2 and 3 emissions, having a proactive approach to monitoring and measuring energy consumption ensures a clear view of emission sources and effective compliance. 

Detailed data can also be collated across multiple sites and reports downloaded for environmental and fiscal reporting, for example to assist compliance with the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) or Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR).

5. Inform energy investment: Another powerful reason for higher level energy monitoring is to inform energy efficiency improvements and make the most of existing resources. This is particularly important as organisations move beyond the 'quick-win' energy saving measures towards more sophisticated methods of demand reduction. By optimising data, organisations are able to understand their energy priorities and build an accurate and convincing case for capital investment in distributed energy solutions, such as renewable generation and battery storage. Organisations are also able to base equipment sizing and specification on accurate energy consumption figures. 

Don't miss out on savings
Despite the huge benefits of advanced energy insights, only 25% of businesses are regularly assessing their energy profile, with most only measuring their energy use annually at best. This is a missed opportunity to  use energy data to drive commercial, operational and environmental success. 

John Hyde is head of distributed energy commercial sales at Centrica Business Solutions.

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