Embrace digital technology to support energy management

Energy management is continuously evolving, making it one of the most relevant topics of our time.

With rising energy prices, it is imperative that businesses lower energy costs by any means necessary to remain competitive. Supporting the global effort to reduce CO2 emissions to achieve net zero by 2050 is even more crucial.

Actions to combat climate change are being escalated across the world. The UK’s net-zero strategy sees every scenario reduce energy demand substantially, with a focus on renewable generation, the need to electrify, hydrogen and carbon capture. Similarly, the IEA denotes that improving energy efficiency will be the biggest factor in lowering carbon emissions. As such, regulations exist to record and reduce energy usage and emissions, but these are getting tougher, such as post COP26 the need to publish net zero transition plans (presently only big firms and financial institutions).

The demand for energy management

The primary objectives of an energy management system (EMS) are to reduce energy costs and emissions. With the number of distributed energy resources (DERs) growing at industrial sites and energy aggregators through increased renewable generation, combined heat and power, battery storage and any other controllable loads, optimizing these systems reliably, efficiently and profitably is a challenge.

According to a survey conducted by ABB, 66% of respondents were considering adding additional onsite generation and 55% considered storage in their future plans, which echoes the need to coordinate and flexibly add and scale up. Yet, 89% have no way of integrating and automating new technologies, such as renewables and energy storage systems. Bi-directional energy capabilities redirect focus away from the traditional grid transaction. Decentralized energy environments mean that producers can maximize generation resources to cut costs and shape demand to avoid peak energy charges.

Utilizing tech to provide visibility AND optimise

As Peter Drucker said, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” Visibility is essential. In fact, 89% of respondents want higher visibility of energy consumption. This data, such as overall energy usage and emissions, is needed to fulfill regulations and understand if sustainability goals are being met. Currently, 50% of those asked are calculating these figures manually. For those using software, it is not as simple as going to one location to collect data. When automated results will be accurate and having the current and historical data available means that improvements can be identified and subsequently tracked, knowing exactly when, where and what is utilizing energy provides a lot of information.

Compliance to voluntary frameworks is increasingly important as companies strive to do better. For example, ISO 50001 is a voluntary international standard for energy management. Companies that have implemented a standardized EMS as part of a wider energy management program have often achieved savings beyond what they would have achieved through self-designed systems (1).

To get the most out of having an EMS it is beneficial to then have the control and optimization layer – see it as closing the loop with active control of your generation, storage and production assets with the likes of real-time control and predictive optimization. With day-ahead and intra-day optimization, onsite generation, controllable loads and grid purchases can be optimised. By utilizing forecasts (eg from weather, energy costs, power demand, production schedules) it opens up new revenue opportunities, such as demand-side response services. Without optimization, it’s a very difficult to avoid peak demands, to load shift at the right time, to make best use of onsite energy assets (such as storage systems) and to maximise self-generation to seek independence from the grid.

ABB Ability™ OPTIMAX® to meet customer needs

ABB’s comprehensive energy management solution – OPTIMAX® – has been designed to fulfill closing the loop from measuring, monitoring, managing and optimising. It allows energy use to be monitored and reported and acts as the brain that balances, coordinates, controls and optimizes all of your operations in real-time.

A common concern is future-proofing your setup, ABB’s OPTIMAX is scalable from those that operate multiple grid-connected assets across numerous sites to those interested in optimizing a single industrial or commercial site with the ability to flexibly add new assets over time as companies seek to add new generation/storage resources whether for financial or sustainable obligations, or both.

Whatever energy management system you choose, ensure that it is saves you money and supports your site on the global journey of securing net-zero goals.

Please spare a moment to answer three simple questions here on what you are doing to tackle this important subject.

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