IOT Insider speaks with Joris Cocquyt, Global Head of Sales, IEC LV Motors Division, ABB about how industry and transportation can put energy efficiency at the top of their agenda.
How are industry and transportation responding to the climate crisis? Are they doing enough to reduce energy consumption?
ABB’s global survey of over 2,000 industrial companies on energy efficiency confirms that the energy efficiency message is resonating with industry.
According to the survey, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents are upgrading to equipment with best-in-class efficiency ratings, such as high-efficiency electric motors controlled by variable speed drives (VSDs). Clearly, some of the most important messages about how energy efficiency will influence the path to net zero have reached industrial companies. At the same time, recent increases in energy prices have further accelerated the drive for energy efficiency and resulted in much lower payback periods for new technology.
However, more needs to be done. Multiple strategies are required to truly have an impact and achieve net zero. These include promoting the transition to renewable energy and electrification of transport and industry.
What are some of the roadblocks preventing companies from increasing their energy efficiency?
A major roadblock is cost. Our survey findings show that half of the respondents listed cost as the most significant barrier to improving energy efficiency. Despite cost being a barrier to investment in energy efficiency, 50% of the survey respondents listed cost savings as the most important driver for investing. This is likely because, unsurprisingly, the initial cost of more efficient technology is higher than that of less efficient tech. However, it has a significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO).
Let’s take the example of an electric motor. The IE rating of a motor relates to its level of energy efficiency – the higher the number, the more efficient it is. Compared to a less-efficient IE3 motor, a super-efficient IE5 SynRM motor can recoup its extra initial cost in a matter of months with energy prices at their current level.
These two different IE classes for direct online (DOL) motors and motors used with a VSD should not be compared nor mixed. Basically, an IE4 DOL motor is IE5 when used with a VSD but today IE5 is defined only for VSD motors and not for DOL motors.
The real cost of a motor is effectively the cost of the energy it takes to run – the upfront price is just a small fraction of the TCO. Often, an electric motor’s sticker price is just 2% of its lifetime cost.
Another roadblock is a lack of information. Only 41% of survey respondents felt they had all the information they needed regarding energy efficiency measures. Making this information widely accessible is essential. Everyone has a role to play in promoting the message that adopting energy efficient solutions deliver a fast return on investment and cut CO2 emissions.
What opportunities are there to improve energy efficiency? What technologies are available?
Industrial electric motors are a key target for energy efficiency improvements. They are widespread through industry – there are more than 300 million industrial electric motor-driven systems currently in operation. They help run food and drink production, drive the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that keep us warm or cool, and power the pumps that provide fresh water. However, they consume more than 45% of the world’s electricity.
One of the major steps that operators can take is to ensure that their electric motors are operated by variable speed drives (VSDs) where appropriate. Using a drive ensures that the motor speed and torque are matched to its actual duty. A VSD delivers typical savings of around 25% – but just 23% of all eligible industrial motors are currently fitted with a drive.
Industrial motors are at the heart of almost all machinery and consume over 45% of the world’s electricity. The issue is that most electric motors are inefficient, and waste too much energy. Why is that?
As mentioned in the previous response, not everyone is using a drive where they could. Widespread adoption of drives would result in remarkable energy and cost savings.
Electric motors are actually very durable and can last 20 years or more if correctly maintained. In the past, energy consumption wasn’t as much of a priority as it is today, so it would make sense to wait for a motor to reach the end of its life before replacing it. Now, technology systems are available that increase productivity, reduce energy consumption, and save costs, so it makes sense to upgrade to more efficient models.
Furthermore, energy was cheap – but not clean – in the past. Today, although it is cleaner than ever, it is also a more precious resource and is therefore increasing in price. Current political factors have also caused a particular spike in prices. Intelligent businesses are looking to invest in more energy efficient technology to cut costs.
Another way that operators can make their facilities more efficient is by carrying out an energy efficiency survey. In the past, it was extremely challenging and expensive to determine the efficiency of individual motors in a large fleet. Today, technology makes it simple and affordable to survey the entire fleet and identify and replace ‘energy wasters’.
Tell me about the synchronous reluctance motor (SynRM) and how it can help reduce energy consumption.
The rotor in a synchronous reluctance (SynRM) motor has no magnets or windings. As a result, it experiences virtually no power losses and operates extremely efficiently. Further, because there are no magnetic forces in the rotor, maintenance is as straightforward as with induction motors. In business terms, SynRM technology can save a lot of electricity – and, therefore, money – per year. In environmental terms, it can also lead to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.
As with other electric motors, a SynRM motor produces rotational motion which can be used to power machines. The rotation of the magnetic flux produced by the stator – and thus the speed of the rotor – is controlled by a variable speed drive (VSD). The drive monitors the rotor position to ensure it stays synchronized. For this reason, this motor operates as a package solution with a VSD to achieve IE5-class energy efficiency, the highest on the market today. IE5 SynRM motors are an easy replacement for induction motors as they have the same size and output power, so no mechanical modifications are required, making it easy to retrofit into existing installations. In practice, IE5 motors have 20% fewer losses compared to an IE4 motor, regardless of the technology or IEC standard used.
In addition to reducing energy consumption in its operation, SynRM motors also require less energy in their construction, maintenance, and end-of-life. Synchronous reluctance technology combines the performance of permanent magnet motors with the simplicity and service-friendliness of induction motors, as they do not include rare earth materials in permanent magnets. These rare earth metals require a lot of energy to take out of the ground and recycle at the end of a motor’s life.
Tell me about the ABB Ability Smart Sensor for motors and how it can help companies with their energy efficiency.
Smart sensors for electric motors, like the ABB Ability Smart Sensors, can be mounted on most types of motors in a matter of minutes. They are rapid to install since they are wireless. All they need is a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone or PC. The data they transmit enables the condition monitoring application to show insights on vibration, temperature, energy consumption, operating hours, number of starts, and RPM.
Sensors are one of the options that turn rotating equipment like a motor into a smart connected asset that helps detect disturbances. This enables operators to perform remote condition monitoring and plan maintenance proactively, before equipment failure, helping to save downtime that can cost businesses millions in some cases. Condition-based maintenance also lowers labour costs since maintenance staff don’t have to be sent out on a schedule or even at the last minute, but instead only have to be sent out to fix things they know to be faulty or even before the fault occurs.
Smart sensors also connect existing assets to enable data for digital energy appraisals that monitor energy consumption and together with the right expertise reduce costs and CO₂ emissions. This continuous analysis allows for the optimisation of individual assets to entire applications that then reduce energy use. The ABB Ability Digital Powertrain Energy Appraisal can help a business make better decisions as it can identify motors that might be the wrong dimension or size for the job, that need to be modernised or that can become more efficient with the help of a drive (VSD).
What role have MEPS (Minimum Energy Performance Standards) played in helping countries to meet their energy efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions targets?
From a motor technology perspective, the MEPS requirement is and has been pushing customers, machine builders and manufacturers to adopt the requirement in their products around the world. This legislative push-effect has been bigger than the pull-effect from the market until recent events like the increase in energy prices. The result is that more efficient electric motor driven systems are more widely requested than earlier.
MEPS will continue to play an important role in the future especially as new EU Ecodesign Regulations will be coming into force. These will expand the scope further and increase the energy efficiency and sustainability requirements for motors.
There’s also plenty of other industry editorial at IoT Insider’s sister publication, Electronic Specifier. And you can always add to the discussion at our comments section below or on our LinkedIn page here.