Missing the point

Here is a plant manager's summary of the Executive Summary of the United States Industrial Motor Systems Market Opportunities Assessment.

By Russ Kratowicz, executive editor

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In December 1998, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the Department of Energy published "United States Industrial Motor Systems Market Opportunities Assessment." The report is based on statistical sampling methods applied to the results of on-site visits to a cross-section of domestic manufacturing plants during 1997. This comprehensive, inch-thick report suggests that plant maintenance and management professionals are not taking advantage of many energy-savings measures available to them. It identified the barriers that prevent managers at industrial facilities from capturing more than a small percentage of the potential benefits of motor system efficiency. It also serves as a benchmark against which plant professionals can measure their own procedures.

Project objectives
This report represents a prodigious effort that has not been duplicated in the last 20 years. The Market Assessment was carried out by Xenergy Inc. under a subcontract with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Lockheed Martin Energy Systems). The objectives of the project were to:

  • Develop a detailed profile of the current stock of motor-driven equipment in U.S. industrial facilities.
  • Characterize and estimate the magnitude of opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of industrial motor systems.
  • Develop a profile of current motor system purchase and maintenance practices.
  • Develop and implement a procedure to update the detailed motor profile on a regular basis using readily available market information.
  • Develop methods to estimate the energy savings and market effects attributable to the Motor Challenge Program.

The basis for the project was on-site studies of 265 industrial facilities in 20 areas nationwide in SIC codes 20 through 39 (see sidebar). The number of sites studied constitutes a carefully designed probability-based sample of the manufacturing sector. The database covers almost 29,300 motors and their driven equipment as well as instantaneous load measurements on nearly 2,000 motor systems.
The report identifies two categories of motor system energy efficiency measures that a plant can take. The first are motor efficiency upgrades that improve the energy efficiency of the motor driving a particular machine or group of machines. The second are system efficiency measures that improve the efficiency of a machine or group of machines as a whole by reducing the load on the motor, matching component size and load requirements, using speed controls, better maintenance, or other engineering strategies. The report notes that only 9.1 percent of the motors in use in manufacturing facilities meet the federal efficiency standards that took effect in late 1997. It also predicts that it will take 15 to 20 years to replace 80 percent of the motors in the 1 to 200 horsepower range based on the current pattern of motor purchase and rewind.While the Motor Challenge Program can document over a dozen major projects that yielded system-wide savings of 33 percent or more, this report notes that there are barriers to capturing the financial and operating benefits of motor system energy improvements.

  • Low priority of energy efficiency among capital investment and operating objectives because, in manufacturing as a whole, motor system energy costs constitute less than one percent of total operating costs.
  • General lack of awareness among facility managers of strategies, costs, requirements and benefits associated with achieving motor system efficiencies.
  • Generally low level of staffing for the facility maintenance function.
  • There are conflicting incentives for suppliers regarding the promotion of efficient equipment and practices, an example being the greater incentive to sell additional equipment to customers with increasing loads rather than advising customers how to control load growth through better maintenance and production planning.

The findings from the study
The key findings that came out of the study might be surprising.

  • Industrial motor systems consume over 679 billion kWh, or 23 percent of all electricity sold in the United States.
  • Motor energy use could be reduced by 11 to 18 percent if facilities managers undertook every possible cost-effective application of mature proven efficiency technologies and practices.
  • Improvements to pumping systems, fans and air compressors represent up to 62 percent of the potential savings.
  • In the manufacturing sector, using adjustable speed drives reduced energy consumption by anywhere from 3 to 6 times the energy savings from improving air compressor systems.
  • For specific facilities and systems, potential savings far exceed the industry average.
  • Motor system energy use and energy savings are highly concentrated by industry and size of plant (1.5 percent of plants--3,583--account for nearly half of the energy use and potential savings in the manufacturing sector).
  • The financial impact of motor-related energy savings is substantial on industries that use significant amounts of motor energy because these plants typically operate on thin margins and operating cost reductions have a greater impact on profitability.
  • The magnitude and pattern of motor energy use and potential savings varies greatly among industries.
  • Except in the largest plants, the level of knowledge and implementation of systematic approaches to motor system energy efficiency is low.
  • Overcoming the barriers to adoption  of energy efficient motor systems purchase and management practices will be difficult.

This study has some clear implications for the design of the Motor Challenge Program itself. The report suggests that:

  • Resources should be focused on the industries in which the highest levels of savings is possible (chemicals, primary metals, paper and allied products, water supply and wastewater, and mining).
  • Resources should be focused on teaching manufacturers, designers, distributors and purchasers of pumps, fans and compressors to specify and maintain optimized systems.
  • End-users need educational opportunities and tools to learn and apply knowledge of motor efficiency.


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