Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How businesses can become more sustainable and increase profits

In the drive to make industry more sustainable, when authorities attempt to pressurise the sector, squeals of "But jobs!" and "Competitiveness!" are heard.

Different sectors within industry respond to the "green-and-clean-yourself" call with varying degrees of enthusiasm. High energy users like cement and steel are notorious squealers. But all of them can benefit from not having a knee-jerk reaction and paying attention to leaders within their sectors who are heeding that call and seeing as a result a turnaround in their fortunes.

Because for an organisation to be able to survive into the future, it has to see all of its operations – its requirements in terms of materials, energy and water, its fixed assets – as equal in importance to its core activity.

Case study: Low carbon tomatoes

Low carbon tomatoes - grown on waste CO2 from a factory next door.Terra Nitrogen, a company based in Billingham in the northeast of England, produces nitrogen chemicals and methanol for industry, but as an unfortunate by-product also produces a lot of carbon dioxide emissions.

It linked up with John Bader Ltd, which now diverts carbon dioxide from the plant into 38 acres of greenhouses erected next door to grow tomatoes.

Terra Nitrogen is also supplying electricity to the greenhouses, allowing them to continue production through the winter and removing the need for the UK’s supermarkets to import so many tomatoes from Spain.

The benefits include the successful reuse of waste heat, reduction of 12,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and the creation of 65 new jobs.

Case study: Unilever

Unilever is a much larger company that is leading the way. Its CEO, Paul Polman, is the visionary behind a Sustainable Living Plan, launched in November 2010, which seeks to double sales and halve the environmental impact of its products.

It is working. He believes that this fundamental shift in the business paradigm is partly a reaction to the financial crisis, from a rules-based one back to a principles-based one, but it has financial benefits.

Procurement of new equipment

It follows that a policy like this should translate into a procurement strategy. Part of any such strategy should be to purchase equipment that is sustainable and consumes the least energy, or has the least environmental impact, over its lifetime compared to comparable products.

Lists of these products, together with standards, may be found on the website of the U.S. Energy and Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, and on the European Market Transformation Programme website, with further information on the Energy Using Products Directive website.

Standby power load should also be a choice factor in procurement. For instance, US federal agencies must purchase products with a standby power level of 1W or less. Standby power typically occurs when the product is switched off for not performing its primary purpose. The standby power data centre lists compliant products.

Sustainable procurement is a specialism in itself. Specimen framework agreements to ensure the supply of sustainable goods and services are available from the website of the UK Sustainable Procurement Centre of Excellence (currently down but may be available via the UK National Sustainable Public Procurement Programme (NSPPP)). There, you might also find a knowledge base of information on sustainable procurement, commodity areas, carbon reduction, whole life costing, legislation, toolkits, case studies and best practice.

For ICT, ENERGY STAR® is a voluntary labelling scheme for products which use less than a specified energy consumption in typical use. It was originally developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for common computing equipment, but is now a joint activity with the European Commission.

This means that specification of ENERGY STAR compliance in tenders is compatible with EU procurement rules. A list of compliant models is at www.euenergystar.org.

A key factor in the energy consumption of ICT is user behaviour. It is now possible to purchase software which monitors actual PC use within an enterprise. Advanced versions permit energy managers to set power policies that reflect a certain level of usage, reducing both energy consumption and carbon emissions. They reveal when users are using their PCs by monitoring key strokes and mouse movements.

Energy managers can then match the power state of each subset of PCs, by location, with the activity level of employees. They can also identify unused or underutilised PCs on the network, further eliminating the management overheads of maintaining these machines; ensure that a computer in a low-power state can be woken up and accessed on demand when a user is working remotely; and that applications which prevent a PC from being powered down can be overridden while the PC is not in use.

Supply chain optimisation

It then becomes necessary for businesses and organisations seeking to reduce their carbon footprint to turn attention to that of their products and services, and this involves looking at their supply chains.
According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), supply chain optimisation can result in up to 60 per cent of energy intensity reductions. For example, in food production and distribution, much perfectly good food is wasted due to spoilage, both in the supply chain and at the retail level. This means that all of the energy embedded in the food is wasted as well.

By modelling the supply system throughout the chain, opportunities may be identified to significantly reduce waste by changing processing, handling, packaging and delivery systems. The result is frequently fresher food delivered faster and of a more consistent quality. There is less waste and greater savings.

Case study: PepsiCo

UK snack foods manufacturer Walkers, and its parent company PepsiCo, have been working with the British Carbon Trust on energy efficiency and carbon management. They have saved over 2,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, reducing energy bills by approximately £225,000 (US$350,000).

Having done this they moved on to looking at their supply chain in order to demonstrate a continuing commitment to emissions reduction. They began by looking at their raw material production, which includes potato and corn producers, sunflower oil and vegetable oil manufacturers, corrugated cardboard manufacturers and so on.

They then began to optimise the distribution of raw materials using logistics and network planning. They have already optimised the manufacture of products. The next step was product distribution, again tackled by the network strategic planning department. Finally, they wanted to make sure that redundant packaging could be recycled.

Energy Management in Industry

Energy Management in Industry: The Earthscan Expert GuideThis is an extract from my latest book, Energy Management in Industry: The Earthscan Expert Guide, which is a companion to my Energy Management in Buildings, published in November 2013.

Energy demand reduction is fast becoming a business activity for all companies and organisations because it can increase profits regardless of the nature of their core activity.

The International Energy Agency believes that industry could improve its energy efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by almost a third using the best available practices and technologies.

This guide looks at the many ways available to energy managers to achieve or even exceed this level of performance, including: base-lining consumption planning a monitoring and verification strategy metering (including smart, wireless metering) energy supply management motors and drives compressed air and process controls.

It also looks at topics covered in greater detail in its companion volume, Energy Management in Buildings: insulation, lighting, renewable heating, cooling and HVAC systems. Uniquely, it includes a whole chapter on greening data centres. Further chapters examine minimising water use and how to make the financial case, both to prioritise measures for cost effectiveness, and to get management on board.

This title is aimed at all professional energy, industry and facilities managers, energy consultants, students, trainees and academics and can be read alongside training for ISO 50001 - Energy.

'David Thorpe's book Energy Management in Industry is an easy to read book about how you can save energy in your company…He does this without [needing] to over complicate it with technical details and scientific formula. I enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it to energy managers and anyone who would want to reduce energy consumption.' - Kit Oung, Energy Consultant and author of Energy Management in Business, Committee Member, British Standards Institute BSI-KSA.

Selected Table of Contents

Preface. Introduction. 1. Measuring Energy Consumption 2. Metering 3. Airtightness and Insulation 4. Lighting, Daylighting and Controls 5. Heating and Cooling 6. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Systems 7. Energy Reduction Technologies 8. Motors, Drives and Compressed Air 9. Refrigeration 10. Process Controls 11. Data Centres 12. Minimising Water Use 13. Making the Financial Case Conclusion. Appendix.