Monitoring consumption saves energy, improves output, and reduces downtime

Monitor consumption to tame energy bills, improve output and reduce downtime.

By Theresa Houck, Associate Editor

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Energy expenses can no longer be considered just a price of doing business. Power cost and quality affect cash flow, asset efficiency and profit. Fortunately, these can be controlled. You can determine your energy destiny by improving production processes and taking advantage of energy monitoring and control technologies.

In the past few years, many manufacturers — especially larger companies — have realized the need to rein in energy costs. This has become important to even more plants, including smaller manufacturers, now that rising fuel prices don’t appear to be heading back down.

Usage isn’t heading south either. According to the Department of Energy (DOE) report Annual Energy Outlook 2005 with Projections to 2025 (, industrial natural gas and petroleum consumption will increase 22% and 20% respectively between 2005 and 2025, while electricity use will jump 26%.

Motor systems alone consume 63% of the electricity in the U.S. industrial sector, according to the DOE U.S. Industrial Motor Systems Market Opportunities Assessment 1998 final report. Motor systems represent the largest single electrical end use in the economy — 23% of the electricity sold in the U.S.

Often, plant managers don’t realize the savings potential sitting right at their feet. “In the distribution business, we’re always asked, ‘Can you help me get a 2%, 3% or 5% price reduction on our equipment?’ Those are peanuts compared to what we can do with the energy consumption reduction in plants,” says Steve Countryman, regional manager with Applied Industrial Technologies ( “Most plants have 300 to 1,500 electric motors, pumps and other equipment running, and in many cases they aren’t anywhere near as efficient as they could be.”

“Demand charges typically constitute 30% to 50% of your total energy bill,” says Phil Bomrad, director of energy services, Siemens Building Technologies ( “If you take control and reduce your demand with demand limiting using a control system, you can have a significant impact on savings.”


Table 1: ROI worksheet
ROI Worksheet


Know where it goes

Energy monitoring and control systems can range from several meters to a comprehensive software setup and thousands of measuring points. Most advanced systems provide scalability, real-time data, and third-party device compatibility via protocols such as Ethernet, Modbus, Profibus, DeviceNet, LonWorks, BACnet and OPC.

Most systems use the Internet for remote access to multiple locations within a plant or between multiple locations using Web browsers on a PC or wireless devices such as a PDA or laptop. Applications include alerts and alarming, load analysis, cost allocation, bill verification, asset management, trend analysis, equipment monitoring and control, and preventive maintenance. Some vendors provide the monitoring service for the end user and offer 24/7 technical support.

Software is the key to advanced capabilities. “Modern SCADA systems are taking on more functionality, providing more user needs that keep production going and power flowing, hence providing a good ROI,” says Dr. Jay Park, international product manager, Power RICH System, ABB ( Power RICH System is a SCADA system that monitors substations and line equipment. It connects to power devices, water units, fire alarms, motors and security systems.

Microsoft.Net and XML also are making energy monitoring and control systems more useful and affordable for end users. “XML allows solution providers like us to have more flexibility with Web-based development initiatives,” says Roy Hicks, access product marketing manager, Siemens Energy & Automation ( “It also provides more data management flexibility for end users.

“The heart of our solution is wrapped around our WinPM.Net software,” says Hicks. “Our software is used by Access application engineers to design a system-level network that communicates and controls various models of power equipment, like UPSs, switchgear, automation and control devices, and power generation equipment such as engine generators. We can customize a user-specific application so customers can manage and control their energy system reliably in real time.” (Table 1)

Microsoft.Net and XML Web services are integrated into RSEnergyMetrix, an enterprise management software from Rockwell Automation. The software captures, analyzes and stores energy information for utilities including water, air, gas, steam and electricity across an enterprise via LAN or wide-area network (WAN).

Hyperion Wastewater Treatment in Los Angeles used RSEnergyMetrix to reduce its energy bill by $52,000 annually by discovering defects in equipment operation, reducing overall plant energy consumption, and reducing peak demand consumption and subsequent utility penalties.

Hyperion also measures potential savings from planned upgrades. In one case, engineers found they needed to order just half the number of 100-hp drives they thought would be required for a drives upgrade project, saving $220,000.

Take a bite out of costs

Implementing an energy management system typically starts with formulating an energy plan. The plan should be put in place by the people responsible for energy in the plant, such as the plant manager or “energy czar,” in cooperation with any consultants and vendors. It must be based on defined business and functional goals, such as asset optimization, energy reduction goals, cost per unit of production and/or power quality improvements.

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