The consultant: try walking in my shoes

Dr Ian Entwistle is a freelance energy consultant registered with the Action Energy Programme. Here, he discusses energy conservation from the bottom up, as seen through the eyes of a surveyor.

Most scenarios I come across appear generic at first sight. There is always a management structure with the goal of goods production. There are always ‘raw materials’ in and ‘final product’ out. To achieve this, organisations always need to use energy, usually purchased from an energy supplier.

It is widely known that energy efficiency can improve by some 20 per cent (20 per cent is an approximate average for the whole of the UK) without having to resort to esoteric, unecomonic strategies. The point is, we are not as much about energy efficiency as one would wish. Why is that so? Because we are all too busy doing something else that seems to be more important? Or perhaps making energy savings is not seen as economically viable? There are lots of reasons, but they are really all to do with the requirement for a ‘step change’ in attitude to the way we conduct our very lives toward the environment.

If I am not in the office writing a survey report my working day typically revolves around seeing a client, usually for the first time, collecting as much energy and production data as possible and then being given an escorted, but directed, tour of the factory. The number of times I have gone through an induction process to adopt a company’s safety practices!

Sometimes I repeat the visit unhindered by an escort to investigate areas a bit further and make sense of the information I had gathered. When your career revolves around these procedures, you build up considerable skills and awareness in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation in terms of energy management and ability to implement energy efficiency measures.

Survey anecdotes

Sometimes the survey time on-site can involve unusually heroic requirements. One such example involved four-days of helicopter ditching and survival training and extensive medical check-ups prior to an offshore visit. Another trip to a hospital required me to be masked, booted and suited whilst I inspected an underground steam main which was contaminated with asbestos. Once, I was locked out on a roof of a 12-storey city office building whilst accessing boiler plant. This was in the days before mobile phones and I had to shout across to steeplejacks working on a nearby building to get security to rescue me…but I digress.

So everyone knows 20 per cent savings are available, but where? The answer is easy. You need to look. But you need a lot of knowledge to get to the answers. Services and plant processes must be understood in detail to separate out wastage. In the majority of organisations, even where an energy manager has been appointed, this is a problem. Hence the requirement for qualified and experienced professional, external advice.

Take a fresh look

The difficulty with saving energy is that it is often ‘easier said than done’. Organisations build up bad practices without being aware of it. As an outsider with a fresh pair of eyes it is much easier to take time out to ask questions. To give a straightforward example: “Why is the standby boiler left on?” The answer can often be simpler than expected – “Because we have always done it that way”.

Once the practical site work is complete, skill is required in producing a simple report which makes easy reading. The audience can be wide and will include technical readers and managers, right up to the managing director. The report must be easy to understand, with all concepts and recommended strategies logically followed through with an action-based summary. I have found the best outcome is when, subsequent to reading the report, the client says the findings of the survey are obvious. This means I have been successful in analysing their problems, possibly overcoming organisational hurdles, whilst highlighting savings and communicating them clearly to the client. The client is better focussed and in a stronger position to move forward into ‘step change land’. Clarity in reporting is a major factor in motivating the client and his team to plan and execute energy saving schemes in a rational manner.

So, what savings areas are likely to be highlighted in a typical energy survey? Where are they and what needs to be done to implement them? There is no generic answer. Every site is different. Boilers for example, might be used for entirely different reasons, requiring different operational practices. This is why every site needs to be surveyed. It is all very well giving a general recommendation – ‘install lighting controls’ – install them where and what method of control would work? Within this example, where does one install a presence detector and would it be best to leave some lighting off the main control circuit? I have seen many examples of overridden control systems with no resultant saving due to unsuitability.

If I am forced to be more specific, the savings will generally come from efficiency improvements in the following areas:

  • improved monitoring and targeting,
  • improved housekeeping,
  • steam or low-temperature hot water boiler plant and distribution systems including insulation,
  • compressed air generation and distribution systems including leaks,
  • full modulation of burners both on air and fuel,
  • variable speed drives e.g. to avoid damper controlled processes,
  • upgraded lighting e.g. high frequency ballasts,
  • reduced infiltration/over-airing in ovens,
  • optimised chilled water and temperatures and refrigerant head pressures e.g. install electronic expansion valves.

Now you are going to ask: “Where in my factory will these measures apply and what action is needed to undertake implementation?” For the answers contact myself or other consultants on the Action Energy Programme who will be happy to provide further assistance.

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