Energy efficiency ready for the dustbin?

Have the industry efforts so recently begun toward achieving greater energy efficiencies already become passé? Is it already oh-so-five-minutes-ago? Listening to one industry analyst group in particular, one might think that to be the case. According to Frost & Sullivan, “Energy Efficiency was the buzzword of 2008.
By David Greenfield, editorial director May 1, 2009

Have the industry efforts so recently begun toward achieving greater energy efficiencies already become passe? Is it already oh-so-five-minutes-ago? Listening to one industry analyst group in particular, one might think that to be the case.

According to Frost & Sullivan, “Energy Efficiency was the buzzword of 2008. With high energy prices and the ‘green’ movement in full swing, it made economic and social sense to invest in energy saving technologies. Entering 2009, however, the world finds itself in a different economic situation. Energy prices have declined, and the financial crisis leaves companies with little or no capital to spend on investments. In light of these new economic conditions, it is questionable whether the trend toward energy efficiency will continue.”

I realize times are tough (few industries are being brutalized as badly as the publishing industry these days), but has the manufacturing industry reached the point that it’ll step over the dollars available through energy efficiency to pick up pennies while hunkering down and waiting for the economic storm to clear? Knowing that so many things can be done at little or no cost to save energy (see the January and February 2009 Sustainable Engineering features for specifics; also online at www.controleng.com/article/CA6626803.html ), it’s difficult to understand Frost & Sullivan’s reasoning beyond the fact that energy efficiency may no longer be buzzworthy.

Moving beyond that status would actually be a good thing, as energy efficiency is much more about practical money savings than about buzz.

If you’re still uncertain about the dollars that can be saved through a focus on energy efficiency, consider some of these stats provided by Rod Ellsworth, Infor’s vice president of EAM (enterprise asset management):

  • For every dollar spent on maintenance, manufacturers spend 5-6 times that on energy.

  • Energy is largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Energy represents 60% of operations and maintenance costs.

  • 40% of the global electricity used is consumed by industry.

  • A 100 hp motor that costs $10,000 to purchase can cost as much as $150,000 over 5 years running at 94% efficiency (and we all know that 94% efficiency is a rarely achieved goal).

Ellsworth shared this information last month at Plant Engineering ’s Manufacturing Summit in Charleston, S.C., (disclosure: Plant Engineering is a sister publication of Control Engineering ). This handful of statistics alone underscores the massive amount of money that can be saved by a focused energy efficiency plan in a plant of any size.

With engineers squarely at the center of the discussion, where do you stand on this issue? Has energy efficiency officially become a thing of the past already?

david.greenfield@reedbusiness.com