Taking the heat out of the Efficiency 

June, 2010 - Despite reported confusion over the introduction of the new energy efficiency scheme, the heating and ventilating sector can still play a positive role in reducing power consumption by considering alternative energy sources, according to Jeff Short, central area sales manager at Aggreko, the global leader in temporary power and temperature control solutions.

“According to a recent survey by NPower, UK businesses are confused about the implementation of the Government's Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), the energy efficiency scheme which was introduced in May 2010. Nearly half of companies surveyed said advice about the new legislation had been "inadequate", while the same proportion said that they did not understand how to buy the necessary carbon allowances. Also, 44 per cent of companies said they do not know how to forecast their carbon emissions.

“While understanding the details of the scheme’s finer workings is a real issue for companies operating franchises, property management companies and those involved in PFIs, there is still a valid argument for organisations to review their energy use, with specific emphasis on alternatives to traditional power sources.

“For instance, we have identified a hidden proportion of UK businesses that are suffering from the high price of fixed energy tariffs made back in September 2008, with many paying over 50 per cent above the current market rate. Aggreko’s experience with HVAC engineers working in a range of sectors leads us to believe that alternative sources of energy, such as gas powered generators, could provide cheaper, more flexible electricity in many instances. 

“A key challenge facing plant managers and HVAC specialists is their ability to ‘think outside the box’ and consider alternative energy sources, which often involves the use of temporary solutions. Clearly, challenging times and volatile energy markets demand a more flexible approach from engineers, who increasingly need to consider alternatives such as combined heat and power (CHP), gas, wind and even solar energy. Looking ahead to the next ten years, we see temporary power solutions playing a far more important role in overall energy planning in manufacturing plant and hospitals alike. The flexibility of using temporary power solutions will enable engineers to respond to changing market conditions and deliver energy and cost efficient power.

“A good example of this thinking is the recent use of gas powered generators on a temporary basis. Organisations that use at least 1 MW of continuous power, have access to an industrial scale gas supply and are paying over 6p/kWhr for their electricity could be making significant savings on their current tariffs. We have recently installed natural gas powered generators in a UK manufacturing business, which has confirmed savings of up to 50 per cent on its fixed tariff.  And this is not an isolated opportunity; we have identified the sectors that could most benefit from switching to gas generators as food processing, steel, quarrying, shipping and healthcare.

“CHP adoption is another area where HVAC engineers could lead the way in enlightened energy management. A recent study undertaken by Imperial College and the University of Surrey found that the UK’s reliance on electricity to heat homes and power cars could pose significant risks to uninterrupted energy supplies. As demand for electricity is predicted to climb by over 13 per cent, to 150 gigawatts by 2050, the need for innovation in this area could not be more apparent. HVAC engineers, with their potential role as catalysts of change in many industries, have a key role in bringing about innovation in this area of energy strategy.

“Looking further ahead, wind power is another exciting area of power generation that we all need to be thinking about. Granted, it is unlikely that electricity from wind will form a major element of the total picture for years to come, if at all, but businesses will inevitably have to plan a proportion of their energy consumption around this sometimes fallible source.

“Recent experience from Ireland’s 900 MW of installed wind capacity in 2009 illustrates the point. During a three month period (January to March) there were 12 occasions where power output varied by more than 100 MW within 15 minutes and 76 occasions when that variation occurred within 30 minutes; that variation is equivalent to around 37 per cent of the average output. The peak output was 940 MW, the lowest was 9 MW. These variations in output bore no relationship to demand, which was at its peak during a cold period in mid-February, characterised (as cold winter periods often are) by very little wind.

“Presenting these facts is neither an argument against wind-power, nor one in favour of thermal plants. It is simply stating that the generation mix in ten years time will be different, and will have to cater for part of the mix being far more variable than system operators are used to having to deal with.

“This will mean that the HVAC sector will have to be much more strategic when it comes to energy management. Increasingly, power management will become a key operational function within many industries, with businesses and public sector bodies needing to plan their energy sourcing far more effectively than they do at present.

“In the next decade, we will all need to become experts at energy sourcing, possibly managing a number of different suppliers and sources in a complex matrix. Life will inevitably get more complex as organisations grapple with the realities of oil’s demise."

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