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Are energy blind spots damaging your business performance?

In an article published by Energy in Buildings and Industry magazine, Centrica Business Solutions' Ian Hopkins explains why advanced energy insights must underpin energy efficiency strategies.

Why organisations with poor visibility of their energy consumption won't benefit from the big energy cost and operational savings that continuous monitoring can deliver. 

If you don't know precisely how, when and where you are using energy, how can you understand where your energy costs really lie? How can you pinpoint where energy is being wasted, or the best opportunities to make savings?

Research by Centrica Business Solutions shows that only 24% of organisations monitor their energy use continuously. Most say they measure energy use annually, or even less frequently.

Advanced analytics

The most energy efficient organisations understand the necessity to collect and analyse energy consumption data. The best performers are using advanced software analytics to gain deep energy insights by taking this intelligence gathering beyond the meter. In this way, they can understand exactly how their energy intensive processes and equipment are consuming energy and unlock greater value from these assets.

This advanced analytics approach involves attaching wireless sensors to energy-using devices, which are connected to an online analytics platform using Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The data produced can provide real-time, granular visibility of power use and easily digestible insights into how processes and assets are performing.

Our Panoramic Power energy insights solution and PowerRadar™ analytics and reporting platform are helping organisations globally to gain a clear understanding of their energy consumption across multiple sites – right down to individual device level. Hundreds of sensors can be installed within a few hours, without causing any disruption to operations.

Improving operational performance

This is an effective method for identifying anomalies that can indicate both energy waste and problems with operational performance.  In fact, improvements in operational efficiency are sometimes the biggest benefit of using advanced energy insights. Weaknesses in operational processes and equipment faults can be quickly identified. Irregular energy consumption patterns can sometimes indicate hard to detect problems and performance issues.

This intelligence provides an opportunity to make adjustments, repairs or corrections to equipment or systems.  Typical benefits include reduced downtime, improved flexibility and higher productivity. Businesses have the potential to spot potential equipment failures before they even happen and to take a proactive, informed approach to maintenance.

By ensuring that critical equipment is operating optimally and preventing costly disruption, or even breakdown, large operational cost savings can be achieved. This is particularly beneficial in manufacturing, where time is money.

Centrica Business Solutions recently worked with a global building materials supplier to measure energy use and pinpoint consumption across different equipment, buildings and plant.

By monitoring real-time energy usage of critical energy-hungry machinery and using our analytics technology to examine the data, we identified that a conveyor motor was not working correctly. This was creating a bottle neck in the process. Fixing this achieved an annual £211,383 operational and energy saving at just one location. Further cost savings have been made through identifying unnecessary out-of-hours energy use across buildings and plants.

Informing energy savings

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.

It is essential that organisations have deep insights into their energy consumption if they are considering investment in onsite generation and storage technologies to shift usage from the grid to lower carbon, more affordable and resilient supplies. Combined heat and power (CHP), solar photovoltaic systems and battery storage can often provide a rapid return on investment for the right sites, but businesses must be able  to make an informed decision and base equipment sizing and specification on accurate energy consumption figures.

FUJIFIM unlocks £43k cost saving

FUJIFILM Speciality Ink Systems has used Centrica Business Solutions' Energy Insights technology to achieve a £43,000 annual cost saving at its Kent facility, which provided a return on investment within just 3 weeks.

We installed 22 wireless, self-powered sensors to monitor energy-intensive processes and equipment across the facility, which delivered 24/7 energy information to our online analytics platform.

This quickly highlighted two major issues. A fault with air compressor units was identified, which meant that the compressors were running during weekend hours, when the site wasn't operational. This was wasting £17,000 per year.

A second issue was discovered on the ink production line, where specific chillers continued to run after production stopped. By optimising these chillers and improving operational efficiency, FUJIFILM was able to make a saving of £26,000 per year.  We are now working with the company to extend the advanced energy insights solution to other sites.

Benefits of advanced monitoring

As the saying goes: "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it". In the case of energy, you can't properly control it either, which is why energy monitoring should be the first step in any energy saving plan and sit at the heart of your energy strategy. 

There are many benefits of improving energy visibility across your operation, including your energy consuming assets. These include:

  • Revealing energy insights you can act on to improve performance
  • Understanding exactly how, when and where energy is being used and how to reduce waste
  • Optimising your operational efficiency and reducing business risk
  • Improving productivity
  • Unlocking value from your energy assets
  • Analysing asset performance and informing maintenance strategies
  • Informing end-to-end energy management strategies and investment

Contact our expert team for support in translating advanced energy insights into energy savings and improved operational performance.

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