Measurable differences

Coping with the need for increased energy

By Philippa Martin-King

Concern about energy sources and political awareness of the need to ensure safety has encouraged lobbying for an urgent adoption of renewable sources of energy with lower CO2 emission levels. But while talks are on-going, there are few concrete commitments yet.

Tata Steel has made heavy energy efficiency investments at its plant in Port Talbot, Wales. Azipod propulsion for ships. © ABB

What do we do until renewable sources of energy are in place?

The regulations that will allow the necessary safety infrastructures to be put into place are still to be established. The question arises in the meantime as to how to cope with the increasing need for energy. If the option to use less energy seems for many to be unrealistic, then what of using energy more efficiently? Not much can be said against that idea. There are many options available and others in preparation.

Big impact through higher motor efficiency

Let’s take the example of industrial motors. Industry accounts for approximately 42 per cent of the world’s consumption of electric energy. Two thirds of this is used to power electric motors. Increasing the efficiency levels of those motors by a few percentage points can have a significant impact on the use of energy. It reduces not only the manufacturing costs but also the CO2 emissions.

Efficiency classification by the IEC

The leading manufacturers of industrial motors around the world have already adopted the classification of energy efficiency that was put into place by the IEC and was published as a globally relevant International Standard. IEC 60034-30 classifies motors into three levels depending on how efficiently they convert electricity into mechanical energy: IE1 is the base standard for efficiency, IE2 stands for high efficiency and IE3 for premium efficiency. The standard also mentions a future level above IE3. IE4 will be classified as super premium efficiency. Products in this category are not yet commercially available.

Stimulating technology improvements

The classification system has stimulated competition among motor manufacturers and generated massive technology improvements, and while IEC International Standards are voluntary, the EU (European Union) has adopted the IEC classification system and issued a Commission Regulation (EC) 640/2009, which came into effect on 16 June 2011. As of that date, only motors that meet or exceed IE2 energy efficiency levels are allowed to be sold and installed in the EU. In a second stage, from January 2015, all motors will need to reach IE3 efficiency levels (or IE2 combined with variable speed drives). Generally referred to as EU MEPS (Minimum Energy Performance Standard), the requirement covers most two, four and six pole motors in the power range of 0,75 to 375 kW (kilowatt) for alternating current (AC) power supply frequencies of 50 and 60 Hz (Hertz).

Profitable for the environment and investors

It is estimated [ZVEH] that this regulation will impact some 30 million old industrial motors in Europe alone. Gradually as they are replaced, the resulting energy savings each year will be in the vicinity of 5,5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity with an equivalent reduction of 3,4 million tons of CO2. Proof that energy efficiency measures can be profitable for the environment and for the investor is the fact that investment payback can be achieved within one to three years (and in under one year when combined with variable speed controls).

Truly globally relevant

Even though EU MEPS covers only European Union markets, other countries including Australia, China, Brazil and Canada have already implemented similar energy efficiency schemes and participate actively in the IEC. In the US the NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) motor energy efficiency programme corresponds closely to the IEC energy classifications. The NEMA Premium, for example, is identical to IE3 and NEMA motors have to be tested in accordance with the IEC testing protocol contained in IEC 60034-2-1. Standards are only one part of the equation. Assessment of conformity to energy efficiency standards is equally important and is covered by the IEC Conformity Assessment Systems and their members.

Biggest source of energy

Industrial motors are just one area where energy efficiency standards can significantly lower energy use. For example, the IEC's behind-the-scene work has enabled the roll-out of the 1 Watt stand-by-power regulations worldwide and is crucial for putting into place and connecting up new renewable sources of power to gradually smarter grids. Using power more efficiently is probably the biggest source of energy there is to be had. The saga therefore continues.

Azipod propulsion for ships. © ABB Azipod propulsion for ships. © ABB
European shipyard in European shipyard in
Tata Steel has made heavy energy efficiency investments at its plant in Port Talbot, Wales. Tata Steel has made heavy energy efficiency investments at its plant in Port Talbot, Wales.