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Monitor energy to improve reliability and efficiency.

By Paul Studebaker, CMRP, Editor in Chief

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As facility manager for Schneider Electric’s Huntington and Peru, Ind., plants, John Troyer is a busy man. He knows energy efficiency is important and his bosses have put it high on their long list of priorities, but he can’t devote a lot of time to monitoring and managing it. So he’s glad that it usually takes less than a minute to open and review the e-mail message his system sends him each day, summarizing consumption and highlighting anomalies.

But one morning, he was dismayed to discover that the plant set a record peak load. Opening his energy monitoring dashboard, he narrowed the time frame to a few hours the previous afternoon. Production rates or weather didn’t explain the spike, but he saw that it occurred on just one of the 17 power transformers in the Peru plant. He called the Peru maintenance supervisor, who said he’ll bring it up in the morning meeting.

The meeting attendees offered various possible explanations, including the monthly test of a back-up air compressor. Troyer brought up and reviewed several months’ history and sure enough, he found corresponding peaks on that transducer over time. He asked the maintenance supervisor to reschedule compressor testing to an off shift, saving the plant $10,000 during the next four years.

Like high blood pressure

Inefficiency can kill you. “Energy efficiency is so big, but it’s a silent killer,” says John Murphy, director, solution marketing, for enterprise asset management (EAM) systems at Infor ( “You’re getting the work done, but you’re closer to the edge than you might realize. Like high blood pressure, it’s not overt but it can kill you. You can’t ignore it.”

Shaving a peak might be small potatoes compared to the savings a plant can see from a reworking a compressor room, replacing a boiler or updating lighting. But, once those high-visibility projects are done, monitoring is not only an essential tool for further improvements in energy efficiency, it’s also necessary to prove and maintain the project savings (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Without control, monitoring, and maintenance, as much as 20% of the value of energy-saving technologies will be lost over time. (Schneider Electric)
Figure 1. Without control, monitoring and maintenance, as much as 20% of the value of energy-saving technologies will be lost over time. (Schneider Electric)

The cost of energy in the United States is predicated to rise as the global demand for natural resources continues to increase. “Add to this the pending U.S. legislation that might require U.S. manufacturers to measure and control their carbon dioxide emissions under a cap-and-trade system, and the cost of producing steam could soar,” says Jack Roushey, global products marketing manager for flow and level products, Honeywell Process Solutions ( “To manage rising energy costs, manufacturers will need to ensure that production processes are lean and monitored affectively.”

Fortunately, the ability to gather, analyze and act on energy data is rising as fast as the need. Wireless is becoming common, meter costs have come down and we have the protocols to make monitoring reasonable for a large number of industrial facilities. “Companies used to just monitor main breakers, points of common coupling, large areas and reselling points,” says Mark Feasel, director, Energy Solutions, Schneider Electric ( “Now, with automotive leading, they’re metering to line levels, and they’re empowered to go deeper.”

Inefficiency can kill you.

– Paul Studebaker, CMRP, Editor in Chief

Companies need to track W.A.G.E.S. — water, compressed air, gas, electric and steam — by facility and by shift not only to reduce consumption, but also to optimize asset performance and improve reliability. “A typical facility has $20 million in power distribution assets for every $1 million per year it spends on electricity, and transformer loadings affect the life of those assets,” Feasel says. “You can avoid the costs of downtime and bad product by monitoring power.”

Knowing where the energy is going also allows plants to take advantage of demand reduction programs. As we adopt more Smart Grid technology, the way you use energy will more profoundly affect what you pay for it. It won’t be all based on one tariff for a large class of consumers. Your bill will be tied to your individual profile, and understanding it will allow you to use energy when the utility wants you to.

In Illinois, ComEd’s Rider capacity-based load response (CLR) demand-reduction program expects to pay $37.24 per kilowatt that enrolled companies promise to reduce, if called upon, for two to eight hours per incident and as many as 15 events per year, whether or not they are actually called upon to do it.

And as always, plants operate under the prospect of increased regulation. “So far, energy cost and efficiency are the drivers, not CO2,” says Murphy, but under cap-and-trade, CO2 becomes cost.”

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