A recent survey of European companies’ energy costs has shown that, although they benefited from relatively stable energy prices throughout the 1990s, recent years, and particularly the last decade or so, have seen a change in this situation. Worldwide demand for oil, the main fossil energy source consumed, has risen steadily, and at the same time political instability in several oil-producing countries has caused the base price of fossil fuels to rise. This price rise has increased energy bills for industry, and therefore business in general, as well as consumers. Rising energy costs are now directly affecting the prices of manufactured goods, as industrial companies are rarely able to absorb them, and even then, only partially.
With higher costs now affecting profits, businesses are taking a new look at energy efficiency and many are trying to reduce the cost of utility services by upgrading their equipment or changing their operating procedures. Experts warn that, even though their intentions are good, the benefits may only be temporary unless appropriate maintenance is performed.
Although several companies’ first reactions were to see whether they could buy their energy more cheaply or even produce it themselves, the best solutions to this problem, despite the cost involved, remains in overhauling their installations and adapting certain types of consumption by following simple principles which are now well known and widely implemented.
Whatever the sector of activity, whether industrial, tertiary, infrastructure or local government, energy efficiency is becoming a major issue. The need to remain competitive, the necessity for ever increasing profits, continuously rising energy prices, and the current economic constraints, all mean that reducing and/or optimising energy spending is now a major concern for everyone. In industry, for example, it has been shown that significant savings are possible with the eradication of inefficient equipment and unnecessary “out of hours” usage, and this may represent between 20 and 46% of current energy consumption, depending on the issues.
Measurement is the essential function for all energy efficiency projects in order to seek to control and optimise or reduce energy costs. Consuming less, and more efficiently, necessarily means surveying existing installations. This involves comprehensive measurement of all the parameters needed to detect potential savings and propose initial areas for improvement.
As defined in the ISO 50001 international standard, the key is to “establish, implement, maintain and improve an energy management system, whose purpose is to enable an organisation to follow a systematic approach in achieving continual improvement of energy performance, including energy efficiency, energy security, energy use and consumption. The standard aims to help organisations continually reduce their energy use, and therefore their energy costs and their greenhouse gas emissions”. In the current economic climate, with energy costs expected to continue rising, taking steps to reduce energy bills is not an easy task. However, since September 2012, Europe has included the principle of significant energy consumption reductions in its official policy on energy saving. Within this it will force energy companies to invest 1.5 % of their annual energy sales revenues every year in services enabling their customers to reduce their consumption.
International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP)
The IPMVP is part of an approach for controlling, optimising, or reducing energy costs by measuring technical and economic performance. The IPMVP is not a standard but a “framework document describing shared best practices for measuring, calculating, and monitoring the savings achieved in the context of energy efficiency projects”. It defines the methodology for defining a standardised procedure for auditing, measurement and verification of energy performance. Internationally, it is now the most widely-used framework.