Load & Haul

Energy waste could prove costly

The quarrying and mining industries have felt the pinch of rising energy costs following the recent ‘perfect storm’ of geopolitical conflict, natural disasters and supply-side challenges. Waste reduction and improved energy efficiency are on everyone’s mind, and for good reason – such initiatives offer businesses the chance to recapture millions in lost profitability.

Proudfoot industry experts reported, “Cross-industry examination of energy usage found that organisations waste an average of 20 per cent of the energy they use, with 25-75 per cent of that waste being controllable. That ‘controllable’ element translates into 5-15 per cent potential savings across industries – this equates to billions of dollars in savings.”

The first step in achieving these savings is recognising and confronting the wide range of barriers to energy productivity.

Managers tasked with improving efficiency often find themselves with little time to analyse, evaluate and manage energy use. Meanwhile, others believe that a simple decree to ‘do all we can to reduce energy costs this year’ will solve the problem.

A dramatic shift in thinking is required whereby the industry seriously considers the impact of energy inefficiency on the bottom line.

Many of the causes of energy waste are behavioural or cultural in nature and require little to no capital outlay to remedy. The top 10 culprits of organisational energy waste are:

1. Poor consumption practices and inefficient equipment are either not identified or not addressed. In many organisations, energy efficiency has not received serious attention until recently. Management requests for resources or capital in support of energy programs and more efficient machinery may have been ignored for years in favour of other investment priorities. Now leaders are realising that with respect to energy change may be less expensive than the status quo.

No one is held accountable for energy consumption. For most companies, plants and sites, energy use is no one’s direct responsibility. And we all know what the resulting ‘no ownership’ means – serious waste.

3. Energy key performance indicators are not defined, measured or monitored. Without clearly defined indicators of energy usage, organisations are not able to understand their level of efficiency or waste. Constant monitoring of these indicators is essential: not weekly or monthly, but in short intervals – daily, hourly.

4. Rate structures and billing invoices are not available or not understood. Energy experts are few and far between, which means that in most organisations, rate structures and complex invoices are rarely met with informed scrutiny.

5. No one is reviewing utility bills, load profiles, usage trends or records. Bills and usage reports provide the data for a longitudinal study of energy usage and often bring to light new opportunities for corrective action.

6. No energy usage expectations are communicated to employees. All employees must be involved in energy efficiency, supported by behavioural change initiatives. Without a shared sense of ownership, waste will continue.

7. Excessive lighting or machine usage with poor or no controls. The drive for increased production has instilled an assumption that bright, noisy plants operating at all hours suggests improved and uninterrupted production. The actual results may include higher unit costs compounded by early equipment failure and falling profits.

8. Electrical demand is assumed to be uncontrollable. Too many organisations focus on fuel and ingredient inputs while ignoring the electric side of their energy usage, even when it comprises 50 per cent or more of their total bill. This is exacerbated by heavy electric use during peak times and start-up. There is no aspect of energy usage with fully tapped potential for savings.

9. Operating procedures do not take energy impact into consideration. When energy experts walk into a plant or facility, they instantly notice prescribed behaviours that contribute to waste. All processes that involve energy usage deserve careful re-evaluation to identify savings opportunities.

10. Poor maintenance or operational practices of major energy consumers. The best place for a conservation and efficiency structure to begin is in areas of heavy usage. These may include old, inefficient machines or simply energy-intensive processes. Such areas deserve special attention in the development of performance indicators, plans and review.

While many of the causes of energy waste are behavioural or cultural and may require no capital outlay to remedy, the identification of internal opportunities for energy conservation and optimisation requires an exhaustive audit of energy usage, policy and management.

The end objective of such an audit and corrective action must be to achieve sustainable energy productivity gains – a goal that shareholders, employees, customers and our planet will all appreciate.

Source: Proudfoot Consulting

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