Why Industries Slowly Waking Up to Shifting Energy Management

Sep 23 , 2023
By Yemanebrhan Kiros

The narrative around energy management in the industrial sector stands at a crucial juncture. While the winds of change are discernible, much ground exists to cover. Robust policies, industrial commitment, and public awareness can usher in an era where energy efficiency is not just an afterthought but a foundational pillar of operations, writes Yemanebrhan Kiros (yomemech@gmail.com), a manager at Yomener Energy Auditing & Engineering Plc.

The world heralds an era of sustainability. While industries remain vital cogs in this machinery, there seems to be a chasm between intent and action, especially in the realm of energy management. The manufacturing sector appears to be at an inflexion point with mounting environmental regulations and surging electricity costs.

For many, the conversation around energy efficiency is akin to elevator music: always present but rarely given a second thought. However, within the vast expanse of industry, the sonnet of sustainability grows louder.

But are they truly listening?

In boardrooms across the global manufacturing landscape, mentioning 'energy management' or 'energy auditing' might elicit more yawns than nods. It is a startling observation, especially when considering industries' pivotal role in the global energy footprint. Yet, as the past decade rolled out, there were discernible shifts. No longer just a whisper in the corridors of the environmentally conscious, the discourse around energy took centre stage, fueled mainly by regulatory pressures and the ever-climbing energy bills.

However, many industry stalwarts view this shift with scepticism, often perceiving it as more of a regulatory hoop to jump through than a genuine shift to sustainable practices. Non-governmental organisations have eagerly filled the void left by industries' sluggish response. They have been at the forefront of this nascent transformation, offering energy management and auditing services on a platter. Their intent is commendable, but the results perhaps less so.

The heart of the issue lies in the perception of these services. Rather than viewing these audits as a strategic goldmine, industries often perceive them as mandatory, courtesy of their complementary nature. They expect quick fixes, low disruptions, and occasionally, a handout to replace outdated equipment. Industries are increasingly seeking a magic pill. The long-term vision often gets blurred by the allure of immediate, albeit superficial, gains.

Two monoliths stand tall, casting shadows over the path to genuine energy efficiency: Within the hectic confines of factories and plants, energy management often gets relegated to makeshift committees. When daily operations demand attention, these committees find themselves pushed to the sidelines, their recommendations gathering dust.

There is also a policy void. The state apparatus, a crucial stakeholder in this dynamics, often appears fragmented in its approach. The lack of cohesive policy frameworks supporting energy efficiency means industries lack a concrete roadmap.

The baton must be passed to the engineers who design and run these mammoth factories for real change. These professionals, particularly from the mechanical and electrical domains, should be well-versed in the nuances of energy management, making it an integral part of their design and operational ethos.

The financial aspect cannot be ignored. Energy tariffs, especially those for electricity, need an overhaul. The current structure often disincentivises industries from investing in energy-efficient equipment, as the ROI appears distant or nebulous. Walk into any factory, and the sights of leaking steam valves, faltering power factor correctors, and other inefficiencies are rampant. Yet, unless these glitches halt production, they are often overlooked.

The cost of rectifying them might be minuscule, but the cumulative impact on energy consumption and the bottom line is monumental.

This is where the role of energy auditors becomes vital. Their task is not just to identify inefficiencies; but, it is also to translate energy wastage into tangible financial implications Doing so, the onus is not solely on the manufacturing sector. The ecosystem – from policymakers to consumers – needs to rally.

Industries should be encouraged, if not mandated, to have dedicated energy managers who document and drive energy initiatives. Benchmarks should be established, allowing for annual evaluations and comparisons. The market, too, needs to respond. From energy-efficient products to specialised services, the availability of such offerings would undoubtedly catalyse industrial actions.

Public awareness is crucial. The average consumer often remains oblivious to the energy efficiency (or lack thereof) of products they buy. Bridging this knowledge gap can drive demand for more energy-efficient products, compelling industries to act.

While the manufacturing sector's journey towards genuine energy efficiency might still be in its infancy, the roadmap should be clear. With collective intent and action, we might witness an industry truly awakened to the imperatives of energy management.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 23,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1221]

Yemanebrhan Kiros (yomemech@gmail.com), manager at Yomener Energy Auditing & Engineering Plc.

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