Handbook outlines energy strategy for small companies

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Energy, European union, Eu

A new handbook aims to help the EU's small and medium sized
processors cut down on their energy requirements.

Sharply rising energy prices and regulatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions have put the food and drink sector under pressure to cut down on energy use. The methods, developed and collected by a consortium of national energy agencies and consultancies, were tested at plants owned by about 50 food and drink processors in 11 EU member states. In addition to the handbook, the consortium developed an energy management specification, an implementation model, a web based learning system, a benchmarking scheme, and other tools like templates for energy audits, measure lists and checklists. The consortium was co-funded by the EU under the Benchmarking and Energy Management Schemes in SMEs (BESS) project as a means of helping small and medium sized companies improve their energy performance by implementing best practice management techniques. The handbook cites some examples of the cost savings made by companies who used some of the cited energy management techniques. For example an energy audit led a dairy to put frequency converters on its 203 electrical motors, which had a total power of 1,216 kW. The company invested €311,000 in the method, while estimating that the annual savings for the company added up to €90,000 and 1,325 MWh. The pay-back time is about 3.4 years. Another dairy installed a load management system and thus saved €14,000 per year, the report stated. Meanwhile the biggest dairy in Styria, Austria operated a combustion air fan using an engine with a nominal capacity of 30 kW, which was run up by a star-delta starting. The fan used an annual energy consumption of about 152,400 kWh. By installing a frequency converter the speed was reduced and the actual airflow was adapted to the necessary airflow. The action resulted in energy cost savings of about 86 per cent. With investment costs of €8,000, the company estimated the payback period at nine months. At another Austrian dairy, the biggest cottage-cheese-producer in Europe, the compressed air was supplied by three compressors, which were controlled by adjusted pressure levels. There was no superior controller and no use of waste heat. The strongly fluctuating workload and operating method of the compressors resulted in a high-energy consumption. The company installed highly efficient aggregates and a superior control optimising the ratio between full load, part load and idle speed of the compressors. Along with the installation the company began using the waste heat for heating the neighbouring hall and reduced the leakages. The company's costs were €50,000 and resulted in savings of €24,975. Another dairy, Namdalsmeieriet, invested in a combined heat recovery and purification plant. The combustion air is preheated by the flue gases and the sulphur dioxide is used for neutralisation of alkaline waste water. The company reduced its energy costs by about €25,000 per year and spending on chemicals by about €17,000 per year. As a result of energy management another dairy cited in the examples changed its chemical cleaning process, thus decreasing water use by 6 per cent, spending on lye by 46 per cent and on acid by 34 per cent. The Confederation of Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) praised the release of the handbook and called for financial support to help the association's smaller members. Energy efficiency, together with a move towards low carbon energy sources, plays a key role in tackling climate change and reducing EU dependency on fossil fuels, the CIAA said in a statement last week. The members of the BESS project advisory group included the European Commission, the International Energy Agency and the CIAA. The CIAA also recommended that the BESS management tools could be useful additional instruments to support and complement existing strategies on energy-efficiency, in line with company and country-specific conditions. SMEs account for 99 per cent of the EU's food and drink industry and often face a number of barriers to implementing energy efficient methods, including the lack of human and financial resources and insufficient information on energy management. "Financial support schemes and the provision of energy-related expertise can provide important incentives for implementing energy efficiency measures, in particular in SMEs with often limited financial and human resources,"​ the CIAA stated. The association supports the conduct of energy audits, consultancy, or training courses to help small companies save on energy. "Long pay back periods for energy investments in a sector used to short investment cycles, investment uncertainty and the lack of available capital funds can constitute important investment barriers for SMEs,"​ the CIAA stated. "Investment support can be a crucial instrument to help SMEs to overcome existing economic barriers."​ The BESS project website is www.bess-project.info.

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