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Improve energy efficiency and enable distributed generation with industrial IoT

IoT creates useful efficiencies on the product line – but applying the technology to your energy use could create even greater returns.

IoT is all about efficiency – and applied to your energy systems, could create new revenue streams and a useful competitive advantage.

The energy industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Energy companies and consumers are being forced to re-evaluate the how they produce, use and store energy as they move towards a distributed energy approach. 

Centrica Business Solutions believes that that the Internet of Things (IoT) will be fundamental to addressing these challenges. Using IoT and a distributed energy approach, the manufacturing industry will be able to turn energy from a cost and potential risk, to a source of competitive advantage.

Building an IoT network that delivers

Initial IoT deployments are often in the form of smart sensors. These devices give your machines a voice, telling you what they are doing in real time. Sensor manufacturers will provide you with tools to help capture and analyse important energy feedback. 

IoT insights are actionable – they provide you with the information needed to make improvements in energy efficiency, and to support asset and facility optimisation. To unlock the full value of IoT, sensors need to be fully integrated with the rest of the system. Live data must be fed back to purpose-specific terminals for analysis and action. 

IoT sensors can capture and analyse energy data at the circuit level, creating a smart feedback loop. This loop results in a more reliable and resilient system of energy distribution. It enables a frictionless, hugely profitable, demand-response and demand-charge optimisation regime.

Efficiency gains lie at the heart of IoT projects. Your ideal framework will dramatically reduce the need for human intervention and automate many common business processes. You will accomplish your objectives more quickly, easily and intelligently – all with perfect transparency.

Putting the IoT network to work

IoT sensors give your energy systems a way to report on their own health. Rather than implementing a periodic maintenance routine that identifies issues once every 6 weeks (or more), IoT feedback provides insights in real time.

IoT links active preventative and condition-based maintenance to monitor all of the physical processes of your factory, for example. You will have real time insight into previously invisible processes, like energy intake and usage patterns at the site, zone, system, and device levels. These reports will identify costly impact points within minutes, allowing you to formulate responses more quickly, and control associated costs.

How will IoT benefit your business?

In our experience, there are four key benefits that all IoT can help your energy business to realise, including:

1. Increased competitiveness
In the past outsourcing was seen as the best way to contain labour costs and to increase competitiveness. Industry 4.0 not only keeps labour costs low – smart, automated processes require less human operators – but also improves the efficiency of the process as a whole. The end result is a nimbler, more competitive enterprise.

2. Increased productivity
Around-the-clock automation and deep, granular insights into your entire energy usage and processes ensures greater productivity. Empowered by machine learning algorithms, your systems can run better, for longer, at a lower cost and with less downtime disruptions.

3. Better record-keeping and archiving
A by-product of capturing and cataloguing energy data is that you gain access to all the necessary information for internal operations, regulatory compliance and consumer facing transparency efforts.

4. Improved business structures and business relations management
Collateral data also presents a big opportunity. Manufacturers can sell the information they gather to market research and analysis firms looking to bolster data sets and strengthen their findings. Or, they can leverage the information uncovered to restructure agreements with their suppliers.

Less tangible, but just as valuable, is the way that IoT insights can be used to inform decision making when it comes to your energy strategy and management. The data gathered from your IoT network will identify opportunities for additional investment to compound operational efficiency gains and cost management.

Taking the next step with IoT

On-site power generation presents new opportunities for forward-thinking manufacturers. Highly efficient Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems can offer significant cost savings compared to grid-purchased electricity and gas-fired boilers. CHP allows your business to reduce dependency on the local electricity network and improve site resilience.

IoT plays a key role in helping make the transition towards CHP. By linking assets intelligently, they no longer exist in isolation. Instead they can be connected into the broader electricity networks as part of a system of distributed energy resources.

According to the International Energy Agency, distributed energy could account for 12% of global power capacity by 2030. This gives manufacturers an opportunity to make their assets available to the network – and create additional revenue. They will also find it much easier to flex their own energy demands.

Don't be left behind

Centrica research found that attitudes towards energy are changing. Firms across Europe are looking to better manage energy demand and improve sustainability. They also want to adopt new technologies that will help them improve efficiency – including the possibility of generating their own power.

The most forward-thinking businesses are using sourcing, financing and managing energy to help address three major business challenges: cost management, risk management and business transformation. As more stakeholders become involved in these strategic decisions, the role of the energy manager is increasingly complex.

The challenge for manufacturers today is to look at the bigger energy picture. IoT may help to deliver significant value across the production line – though the application scope is much wider. Applying IoT to energy management is transforming the way this resource is used in ways that would have previously seemed impossible.

Demand and storage can be important opportunities for organisations to respond in real time to the energy market. Energy is no longer a pure cost and potential risk, it’s your source of competitive advantage.

To find out more about Energy Insights, visit our website.