Energy efficiency measures often aren’t a question of budget, but of knowledge, as, for many companies, they mean moving into unfamiliar territory. Stefan M. Büttner explains the advantages successful energy management holds for companies.
Which companies stand to gain from digital energy management?
In principle, it’s worthwhile for any company – because it’s the key to more easily identifying consumption anomalies and efficiency potentials. Digital energy management additionally allows companies to adapt processes to specific needs, actively engage in load management and wisely integrate renewable energies and storage systems. It also facilitates the production of sustainability reports by helping companies to calculate the right combination of efficiency measures from among a wide range of options. This can’t replace an audit, but it can enhance an audit’s usefulness, as it makes it easier to identify potentials and reduces the risk of overlooking worthwhile measures.
In a study on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) in 2017, we found that the top ten innovations available in the market had a combined energy-saving potential equal to about a third of the total consumption in the industrial sector. Technological and digital progress since then has most likely only further increased this energy-saving potential.
What should companies bear in mind when opting to digitalise their energy management?
Their energy management should be set up as flexibly as possible and shouldn’t be dependent on their production configuration. That way, it will still work when usage changes or new machines are introduced. Security must also be considered from the outset, in order to be prepared for hacker attacks, for example. Talking to other energy managers can be very helpful here. But ultimately, the human component is key – that is, getting the employees on board so that they pitch in and play their part.
Why is reliable and transparent data so important when it comes to efficient energy management?
Think of it as a road trip. You can only plan an efficient route to your destination if you know where you are. If you don’t have any points of reference or if you make false assumptions, you can end up going down the wrong road. The same thing is true for energy management.
What is the biggest hurdle in implementing measures to boost a company’s energy efficiency?
Energy efficiency is complex. It’s almost impossible to know everything about all the different facets. This is currently the case in particular with waste heat utilisation, where there is a lack of experts who could help in identifying and realising potential – not least to counteract the gas crisis. Measures are further hampered by the limited availability of materials and installers.
What’s more, if energy has been a comparatively small share of my company’s costs until now, I might not have anyone who knows about these things. That may make it seem easier to increase sales to offset additional energy costs rather than intervening in working processes. As a result, it’s often only the so-called auxiliary processes that are tackled, such as lighting and heat provision. But the current crisis may change this.
If you were an energy manager at a small or medium-sized company, what would your top five energy conservation measures be?
The industrial sector is highly diverse, so the top five measures really depend on what my company produces, which energy sources I use and how energy-intensive I am in my operations. So my top five are the following general steps:
- Systematically logging consumption levels for all energy sources using universal standards.
Involving the workforce in identifying and remedying unnecessary energy and resource consumption, and asking them for ideas for how to boost efficiency – possibly involving a reward system.
Introducing a structured energy management approach that includes the logging of efficiency potential, digital consumption monitoring and an implementation road map.
Agreeing on a dedicated energy efficiency budget with management or automatically incorporating measures into the investment budget and implementing them up to a set threshold (costs per saved kWh).
Consolidating responsibility for sustainability, decarbonisation, energy management and energy purchasing as much as possible, as costs for emissions and energy procurement have a direct impact on the cost-effectiveness of the efficiency measures and on the company’s resilience.
Thank you for talking to us, Mr Büttner!
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