Energy efficiency measures in industry

Where is the savings potential through increased energy efficiency for industrial companies?

In our blog series „Energy efficiency measures in industry“ we would like to present possible savings potentials in industry and the associated measures.

In this first article, we first want to discuss the overall situation in Germany and, building on this, point out the greatest savings potential in industry. The German government has set the ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG emissions) in Germany by 40% by 2020 compared with the 1990 emission level. In addition, a reduction of 55% is to be achieved by 2030 and a reduction of more than 80% by the year 2020.

As can be seen in the figure, a 23.7% reduction in CO2-equivalent GHG emissions from 1,251 to 906 million tonnes was achieved between 1990 and 2016. However, the federal government’s above-mentioned target is equivalent to CO2-equivalent GHG emissions of no more than 751 million tonnes in 2020. To meet the national target, a further reduction in GHG emissions of 17.1% must therefore be achieved, which requires an average annual reduction of about 4.2% from 2016 onwards. Whether the goal of the Federal Government can be achieved at all plays a subordinate role here. The pursuit of such targets is crucial.

UN Klimarahmenkonvention

Which set screws must be turned in order to achieve these emission targets?

It can clearly be seen that the energy industry is the main cause of GHG emissions with a share of almost 37 percent. This means in particular the energy supply companies and refineries with their activities of energy generation, storage and transmission. In contrast, the share of industry in GHG emissions appears to be quite low at just under 17%.

However, it must be taken into account that the emissions, which here are allocated to the energy industry according to the polluter-pays principle – the place of production – i.e. the energy industry, because the energy is demanded and „consumed“ in the other sectors (industry, households, etc.), it is therefore important to distinguish between the supply side (energy industry) and the demand side (industry, households, etc.). On the supply side, it is therefore necessary and unavoidable to convert the generation of electricity and heat from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in order to reduce GHG emissions sustainably. However, shifting the main responsibility to the energy producers does not go far enough here. Because the cleanest and cheapest energy is that which is not produced, transported or stored at all.

Let’s take a closer look at the demand side:

The energy flow chart (Germany 2015) illustrates the process between energy production and consumption of the different forms of energy in the respective sectors particularly well. The starting point is the primary energy input or consumption (calculated usable energy of a natural energy source such as coal, oil, gas, biomass, solar energy, etc.). Some of the primary energy sources are converted into secondary energy, e.g. electricity or fuels, in power plants and refineries. If one subtracts from the primary energy input the losses incurred during conversion and transport as well as the own consumption, one obtains the final energy consumption which is used by the consumer in the various sectors.

Industry will play a decisive role in achieving the Federal Government’s savings targets, accounting for 29 % (2,576 PJ or 716 TWh) of total final energy consumption in 2015.

Energieflussbild DE 2015

Where exactly is the savings potential in industry?

If we take a closer look at final energy consumption in the industrial sector, it can be seen that the majority of energy (about two thirds) is used to provide process heat and about a quarter to drive motors and machines (mechanical energy). The energy sources used are mainly gas (34%) and electricity (32%).

In the search for potential savings in these application areas, particular attention must be paid to energy conversion and use. This means the conversion of final energy into useful energy (e.g. electricity into mechanical energy or light, gas into heat, etc.).

Contrary to the conventional assumption that the handling of energy and materials is very efficient especially in the western industrial countries, the losses in the final energy conversion and use are very high at over 30%. Especially in industry but also in the other sectors there is a high potential to change from a resource wasting economy to a more sustainable one. With currently existing technology, energy use could be increased by up to 50% within the next 30 years.

In practice, it has proved successful to distinguish between cross-sectional technologies and process technologies. The term „process technology“ refers exclusively to process-specific processes in a company, such as process and manufacturing processes, which are necessary for the manufacture of the products.The term „cross-sectional technology“, on the other hand, is used for all technologies which can be found across many sectors, i.e. which are not limited to one application sector or process. As mentioned above, these technologies often focus on converting energy into usable energy.

The following areas can be assigned to cross-sectional technologies:

  • Process and space heating generation or distribution
  • Process and climate cooling or distribution
  • Electric motors and drives
  • Pumps
  • Air-conditioning systems, in particular fans
  • Compressed air generation and distribution
  • Lighting
  • Heat recovery through renewed use of waste heat

In the coming articles of this blog series, we will deal in detail with one of the cross-sectional technologies mentioned here and discuss technology-specific potentials and measures in each case.




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