Plant & Works Engineering

Putting energy firmly on the agenda

Published:  17 May, 2008



Since the inception of the CCL (Climate Change Levy) in 2001, the UK Government has kept a brisk pace on developing the UK's long term strategy for reducing carbon emissions. As such the recent draft Climate Change Bill put forward in March 2007 is well on its way to receiving Royal Assent by summer 2008.

The Climate Change Bill, the first of its kind in any country, highlights a move in thinking over formative years from simply discussing whether we need to act to quantifying how much we need to do, when we need to do it and, what the economic implications of making such changes are.

The possible impact of the Climate Change Bill to industry is yet to be realised however industry has long since felt the impact of legislation with the Climate Change Levy (CCL). Figures from the Quarterly Energy Report (March 2008) demonstrate that the inclusion of CCL increases the average price of electricity for industry by between 2 to 4%. Coupled with electricity prices that continue to rise, there is clearly a direct pinch to the bottom line for those businesses not taking action to reduce their carbon footprint.

It is a fact that average non-domestic UK electricity prices (including the CCL) have increased in each quarter since the second quarter in 2004 with data for 2007 demonstrating that the average industrial electricity prices were 83% higher than in 20023!

If anyone was unconvinced that the importance of energy consumption would stay on the agenda long term, then they only have to reflect on the above evidence.

It stands to reason that being aware of your businesses carbon impact and finding ways to reduce your carbon footprint cannot be a passing fad but must form part of a long term strategy to create sustainable energy consumption reductions in order to meet legislative requirements and reduce the impact on the bottom line.

Mike Argent, general manager of Boge Compressors Ltd explained to PWE that his company is committed to assisting compressed air users in reducing their carbon footprint "by prescribing to a tried and tested four-step approach to energy management which has generated sustainable energy savings for many of our customers who have taken practical action on our recommendations”. He added: “This approach not only benchmarks an existing system but also provides for continual assessment and validation of the ongoing live compressed air system starting with no and low cost solutions.”




Boge"s four-step approach to energy management

Step 1: Audit

To establish the benchmark a system must be comprehensively audited by evaluating generation, treatment, distribution and process usage.

The generation evaluation may include identifying factors such as the number of compressors being used to meet the demand, the quality of maintenance and so on. Even seemingly small factors could be unnecessarily heightening energy costs. A common cause of poor efficiency is the use of spurious spare parts. Not using the manufacturers original parts, for example rotary screw elements, can drastically alter compressor specification and efficiency.

Leakage is another area that creates unnecessary energy costs that can be assessed within the audit. An ultrasonic leak detector can detect precisely where leaks are. It is worth remembering that just one 3mm leaking hole costs roughly 3kW which equates to some £2000 per annum (depending on your local kW power cost).


Step 2: Optimise

Once an audit is completed, the whole compressed air system can be optimised to reduce and if possible eradicate the identified energy waste and misuse. In many cases the recommended changes will only incur low costs - if any.


Step 3: Post-Audit

After the whole system has been optimised the system efficiency (kW/m3) should be compared with the original benchmark in order to validate changes that have been implemented. At the same time it is possible to verify the 'payback time' for any investment that was implemented to create the on-going energy savings.


Step 4: Continual Improvement

As system dynamics change so will the demand for compressed air. On-going evaluation is therefore vital in order to maintain an energy efficient compressed air system.





Argent highlighted: “Where applicable, there are significant savings to be made by integrating low carbon technologies such as upgrading to a frequency controlled screw compressor to implementing an energy management control system. Quantifiable evidence from energy audits can be provided to justify the investment into such low carbon technologies.

“In some cases, there is still hesitancy amongst buyers when it comes to actually committing to make the initial financial investment into new energy efficient equipment even though energy savings and payback times can be estimated.”

This is where it is important that the end user takes a look at the wider implications and considers energy optimisation as a long term, company wide strategy.

An optimised compressed air system will create energy savings that will impact on electricity bills and inevitably the bottom line. Additionally, many customers now expect their suppliers to be environmentally conscious. Actively implementing methods and low carbon technologies to reduce the organisations all up carbon impact will only add to enhance the corporate image.

Most importantly, the end user needs to ask themselves what the result would be of doing nothing. Yes, the system will still work. But it would work inefficiently, consume unnecessary energy and it will inevitably require more service up keep. The result - unnecessary cost to the business.

Where budget is the main objection there are a number of financial avenues to explore which can assist in funding low carbon technologies such as the Carbon Trust Energy-Efficiency Loan designed to provide the user interest free money when investing in replacing existing equipment with more energy efficient technologies. SME’s within the UK can apply for an unsecured, interest-free Energy-Efficiency Loan from £5000 up to £100,000 to support such project funding.

The Environmental Transformation Fund (ETF) jointly administered by Defra and BERR formally began in April 2008. This provides a new funding stream for low carbon technologies with a total of £400 million being surged into domestic schemes during the period 2008/9 to 2010/11. ETF aims to speed up the commercialisation of low carbon energy efficient technologies in the UK.

Significantly to compressed air users wanting to upgrade to energy efficient equipment, £47.4 million of this fund has been earmarked for The Carbon Trust which for one, will provide more funding for the SME loan scheme.

With quantifiable projections available to the Plant Manager at the stage of making a decision and a number of viable funding paths available if new equipment is recommended - there really is no reason not to take action.


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