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By Treena Hein
 

CME Ontario’s ‘Energy Pathfinder Research Initiative’ will help companies achieve ‘easy wins’ in process energy savings

Canada’s industrial and manufacturing sector represents one of largest untapped opportunities for improved energy management, says Paul Clipsham, director of policies and programs at CME Ontario. However, that’s going to involve shifting into new management paradigms.

The current paradigm is ‘Asset Management,’ which is based on upgrading and servicing devices to improve their efficiency, Clipsham explains. These measures can certainly save electricity costs, but they only go so far. That’s why many industry experts are working to spread the word about a new priority: ‘Process Management.’ “It’s a systematic and scientific approach to discovering and mitigating waste energy,” Clipsham explains. “It asks the question ‘How well is overall energy consumption controlled and optimized?’ and answers it through data gathering and analysis.”

Said another way, Process Management focuses on optimization of entire systems rather than retrofitting or replacing components or equipment. It’s a matter of assessing system energy consumption (and the factors which influence consumption) to create a picture of how energy is being used versus how it should be used. “Process Management therefore yields two sources of cost savings (demand peak reduction time of use shifting and dead load elimination) without any money needing to be spent on upgrading or replacing devices based on efficiency ratings,” Clipsham says. “It’s about identifying opportunities to lower consumption through better behaviour, measurement and controls.” This includes the possibility of mitigating negative interactions between devices (more on that later), and identifying opportunities where energy use could be shifted to times of day when costs are lower.

Electricity conservation was highlighted at the recent Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters 2014 Energy Conference by the Ontario Power Authority. Conservation is one of OPA’s primary goals, and it has a 2030 provincial target of cutting usage by 7,100 MW and 28 billion kWh (the equivalent of removing one in five homes off the grid).

Process Management hesitation

Why isn’t Process Management ubiquitous at this point? Firstly, the adoption of any new paradigm requires time to understand what it’s all about. In addition, Asset Management opportunities can be easier to identify. Boosting efficiency in an asset such as a pump easily allows ROI to be calculated: there’s a known investment and a known return. Process Management on the other hand, requires an in-depth understanding of a process and may require an upfront investment in staff and EMIS (an Energy Management Information System, which involves sub-metering, process measurements, data collection and storage, reporting and data analysis software). Additionally, Process Management doesn’t provide exact guarantees on return. In part, this is because best practices for how to find sources of process energy waste and how to proceed from there are just being established. “It can be hard to convince anyone to take part in something where the size of the prize isn’t known, and there aren’t established pathways to getting there,” explains Clipsham. “However, help is on the way!”

CME Ontario is now delivering a new program called the ‘Energy Pathfinder Research Initiative.’ Over the next six months, it will provide manufacturers a pathway to find low-cost and easy process energy management ‘wins.’ It will also enable manufacturers to quickly identify areas where they can go further. The Energy Pathfinder Research Initiative is sponsored by OPA through its Conservation Fund, with supporting partners that include the Ontario Government, Union Gas Enbridge, Triacta Power Technologies and CME.

The OPA is sponsoring the initiative to boost participation in their existing energy management programs and to help shape programs targeted at the province’s manufacturing sector in the future, explains Pathfinder Project Manager Giles Counsell. In addition to its upgrade and retrofit programs, OPA now offers ‘Process and Systems programs such as ‘Embedded Energy Manager’ and ‘Monitoring and Targeting.’ Union Gas offers ‘Strategic Energy Management,’ which incorporates energy planning into production and bridges the gap between psychology and practice so that energy considerations are embedded into decision-making. It entails a continuous improvement cycle, with sub-metering and performance tracking.

The first stage of Pathfinder will take about seven months. “The aim of the first phase is to narrow down a list of manufacturing facilities within what we see as the sectors with the best opportunities for energy process management,” says Counsell, who is director of energy analytics at T4G, a consulting firm with offices across Canada. “We’ll choose five sites based on criteria we’re developing, targeting mid-sized manufacturers. “Deep dive” analysis will be conducted at these five sites with the goal of establishing new energy process management best practices that will apply to as wide a swath of companies as possible.”

An example application is air circulation. It’s one that many manufacturers need to use, but many may not have a process energy management practice in place to control operation, such as tying fan speeds to production so that air is circulated only to the extent necessary. “Anywhere you look, there is some degree of waste in electricity use,” notes Gord Echlin, vice president of sales and marketing at Triacta Power Technologies, the firm providing the metering equipment for the Pathfinder initiative. “People think it’s in the range of 5 to 15 per cent, but it is routinely found to be in the range of 30–40 in commercial office and other spaces. With electricity prices rising all the time, the need to measure usage and cut it where possible has never been more important.”

Phase two of Pathfinder will be about taking Phase one ­findings out to 20 other manufacturers, some of whom may have been identified in the first phase. “We’ll go through which findings from the five in-depth case studies are ­applicable to them and find opportunities that they may have that are similar, providing ‘easy wins’ that companies can put in place internally without a lot of analysis or seeking outside funding,” Counsell explains. “The hope is to spur the ­adoption of best practices in process energy management, and ­encourage companies to take the next step, which may include OPA program funding.”

By demonstrating where savings requiring low or no capital investment can be found and actions to realize them, Pathfinder will help enlarge the view of energy initiatives held by most manufacturers, from seeing them as device upgrades requiring outlay of capital to seeing them as opportunities for savings.

“Pathfinder is about digging for the energy savings gold, showing industry where the easy ‘nuggets’ can be found,” says Counsell. “And we hope these easy wins will encourage continued prospecting for more.”

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