More for less23 October 2014

Getting something for nothing isn't everyone's experience, but when it comes to energy efficiency it's easier than you might imagine to come close. Brian Tinham talks to Bosch Thermotechnology and Autoglym

When Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey launched the government's £20 million EDR (electricity demand reduction) pilot scheme back in July, it was understandably greeted with raised eyebrows. Comically dubbed 'negawatts', the deal encourages businesses to bid for public money to help them reduce electricity consumption at peak times by at least 100kW – and hence, in turn, their own costs.

Why? Because, although almost all energy-saving projects are attractive – with solid business cases providing solid ROI – they don't all happen. Reasons for inactivity include capex issues, perceived risk and worries over distractions to core production. And, according to DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change), that failure means a requirement to build more power stations – which is a hideously expensive game. Think of negawatts as cutting down on megawatts and, suddenly, paying companies to cut their own electrical demand by incentivising 'B' list projects makes perfect sense.

If you like, it's part of the holistic sustainability argument. Projects likely to score well for EDR funding include refurbishing lighting systems with LEDs, etc, modernising heating systems (process and space), and fitting variable speed drives and high-efficiency motors, particularly on energy intensive production lines. And note that the scheme sits alongside other financial incentives, ranging from drawing on the Carbon Trust's Energy Technology List (which offers tax relief on top-quartile energy-efficient products) to feed-in-tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive.

All good stuff, but what is likely to make most sense for you? Time to turn to some real-world experience, and who better than Bosch Thermotechnology and Autoglym, both prize-winners in last month's prestigious Best Factory Awards (BFA), staged by Cranfield School of Management and Works Management magazine?

Bosch Thermotechnology, better known as Worcester Bosch, took the Best Engineering Plant award, the Supply Chain award and – most relevant here – the coveted Energy and Environment award. A delighted Geoff Fletcher – the firm's health, safety and environment manager – says achieving this hat trick was the culmination of seven years of CI (continuous improvement), driven not just by the CRC (Carbon Reduction Commitment) scheme, nor the strategic requirement to gain ISO 50001 energy management accreditation. It was primarily a corporate target to cut carbon emissions by 20% by 2020, against 2007 levels, while still growing the business.

For him, primary transformations to date include: better lighting technologies and controls; process optimisation around paint shops and welding; moving hand tools off pneumatic and onto rechargeable electric power; automatic shut-offs for air riveters; and educating employees to switch off equipment. "All of these have been key to cutting our carbon emissions from 13,500 tonnes per annum in 2007 to 10,000 tonnes today – while also growing our turnover by 38%," states Fletcher. "However, educating and training our folk, in terms, for example, of turning lights and machines off at shift end has also been critical, and that costs nothing."

Looking at some of the detail, he explains that, in terms of lighting, the company invested in energy-efficient LED fitments in its warehouse while replacing factory luminaries with light-compensating T5 fluorescent tubes with motion sensors. "The warehouse lighting alone is saving 119 tonnes of CO2 and £18,000 energy cost per annum for a £46,000 investment – and there are further savings from reduced maintenance," he comments. "Next we'll move onto the office lighting, again with occupancy sensors and light-compensating T5 luminaries."

What about production? Fletcher makes the point that a piecemeal approach, centred on clear energy and emissions savings, makes change palatable to any business. "For example, air rivet guns bleed air all the time as part of the loading mechanism, but investing in a simple device that shuts them off automatically when they're returned to their holsters not only saves carbon but also money. We're seeing a £60,000 energy cost saving per annum from an investment of £10,000." That's a two-month ROI.

Improvements in the firm's welding operation at its Clay Cross, Derbyshire factory, which manufactures floor-standing boilers, are even more impressive. Fletcher explains that, as part of Bosch Thermotechnology's 'Always doing better' CI philosophy, the team did some work to optimise welding currents. That not only saved 111 tonnes of CO2 and £17,000 energy cost a year, but also improved production quality. As for ROI, since the investment in new equipment was zero, this project delivered an immediate return.

And, while its paint shop project isn't as dramatic, exchanging powder coating materials for a lower temperature bake solution while also replacing a pre-drying oven with an air knife system is saving 118 tonnes of CO2. That equates to £12,000 per annum cost saving against a £29,000 investment – meaning ROI of under two and a half years.

"We're now looking at having photovoltaic cells installed on the main factory roof, which is likely to net us about 4,500 tons of CO2 saving," enthuses Fletcher. He also expects that project to save the firm around £21,000 in energy costs, with spare electrical capacity available to the grid. And, since the installer carries the can for capex, and maintenance, the firm's investment is again practically zero.

It's a similar story at car care products firm Autglym, which was highly commended in the BFA's Judges Special Award. Operations director Paul Phillips reckons factories should start with the simple things, such as switching electrical equipment off and reviewing lights. "One of most effective wins for us has been issuing a checklist to administrators who then ensure that everything in the offices and factory is shut down at night. Like everyone else, we have meters around the plant, but they're never that specific."

Moving on to lighting, he says: "We replaced all factory lighting with high-efficiency T5 graduated-light fluorescents. Those have halved our lighting bill – meaning a payback of two years – but they've also improved the brightness of the place and cut our maintenance costs." He also advises factories to consider replacing old opaque roof lights and to look at low-energy LEDs for night lighting.

Just as important, Phillips suggests reviewing your space heating and controls. "We looked at our warehouse heating systems in particular. Installing a system from Vickers Engineering that links all space heaters and recovers waste heat is saving around 24% off our gas bill year on year."

Moving onto the factory floor, he says Autoglym has long since moved over to variable speed drives for its conveyor, mixer and pumping controls, adding that high-efficiency motors will come next. "We're about as energy efficient as you can get on electric drives, but plant managers should also be looking at their compressors. You can waste a lot of electricity without good air management." And don't forget distribution pipework. It's not uncommon to be promised an 18 month ROI from an upgrade that also takes in air audits and leak checking – and Fletcher says that's entirely realistic.

Beyond that, he suggests some serious process CI, with an environmental sustainability team, or similar, charged with reviewing standard operations. "For example, we've looked at stirring times and temperatures on some of our mixing processes. It's not a quick fix, but reducing either or both of these, where possible, can make a substantial difference to energy costs and your carbon footprint."

It's all about specifics: "We used to move 1,000 litre IBCs [intermediate bulk containers] around the factory using electric forklifts. But a process review showed that, if we installed a bulk materials tank, a pump, valves and pipework, we could save on FLT movements. That saved 12% on direct energy costs but generated an equivalent 20% on improved productivity with ROI well within three years."

EDR deadline
The application deadline for the first £10 million EDR pilot auction is 31 October. If you have an energy saving project that has been sitting on the reserve projects list for some time gathering dust, now is the time to brush it off and get going.

Brian Tinham

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